If procrastination was an Olympic sport I’d have been a Gold medallist for sure. Having been in training all my life, there’s no doubt that the point at which my skills peaked and I truly went for gold was when I opened my first business.
I went in with the mindset of a winner – “I’m going to have the most clients, with the most talented team, and make the most revenue….all in the first year.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of reaching for the stars but I now know there is a fine line between motivational goals and goals that scare the fudge out of you and leave you crippled with fear.
The tricky thing with the latter scenario however, is that the fear is often lurking in your subconscious, so you don’t necessarily realise it’s there because when it does show up it comes in disguise.
Procrastination is fear in disguise
Procrastination is most definitely fear’s disguise of choice, because that in itself can take on so many different forms. For me it could be anything from constantly creating and refining strategies (that never got implemented), to checking my emails and social media pages every 2 minutes, to drinking an excessive amount of tea and coffee (until it reached a point that my doctor told me I must limit my fluid intake as it was effecting my kidneys).
Yes that’s right, my Olympian status of procrastination had actually started to impact my health. Actually in more ways than that – because I was stuck in a cycle of striving to achieve my ridiculous goals and holding myself back for fear of not achieving them, I was putting myself under an immense amount of pressure so I was constantly in “fight or flight” mode and my body began to shut down.
But as a procrastination-oholic I was addicted and I just couldn’t stop.
Luckily however, my journey to find out what on earth was going on with my body led me to a point where I was able to see my procrastination for what it really was – fear of failure and fear of not being good enough. So once I got to the bottom of where it was coming from, the next challenge was what the hell do I do about it.
Luckily I’ve distilled my findings down into 5 easy steps for you.
5 Ways to beat procrastination and take back a chunk of your time
1. Understand what your procrastination is masking
As you’ve seen with my story, procrastination is merely a symptom. So in order to truly beat it once and for all it’s imperative that you dig deep and discover the cause.
Are you, like me, afraid of failure and not being good enough? Or perhaps you’re afraid of success? Maybe your worry is not being liked or maybe you feel inferior to your peers? Whatever it is, know that these are all perfectly normal fears and everyone has them.
The difference however between those who get shit done and those who don’t, is the former do not engage with their fears. Instead, they simply acknowledge their existence and allow them to move along without causing any trouble, meaning there is no need to enlist un-resourceful behaviours like procrastination to help keep them safe.
So to start understanding your procrastination, think of a recent procrastination situation and pick it apart:
What else was going on at that time?
- Did you have a big task you needed to complete but were worried you wouldn’t be able to complete it to a high enough standard? Perhaps this was triggering a fear of failure.
- Did you have too many things on the go and were freaking out about how you’d get them all done? This may have been a fear of letting people down.
- Did you have a sales conversation coming up and you were stressing about the potential outcomes? Perhaps this was triggering a fear of being rejected.
Once you have a better insight into what’s really going on, you can start to work through the real issue and create real change.
2. Have confidence in yourself and your abilities
When the going gets tough it can be difficult to have faith in yourself, because you’re so bogged down with all the things you have to do and you just don’t know how you’re going to get them all done.
This often leads to a spiral of self-doubt and supersized fears, as your brain goes into fight or flight mode and does whatever it can to hold you back in your comfort zone where it feels safe.
At these times it’s important to remind yourself of all your achievements and the challenges you’ve overcome to date. I recommend having a list saved on your phone or computer so you can easily access it, and you don’t have to think in the moment.
Also make a point of celebrating your wins, big and small, as soon as they happen. All of this serves as a reminder to your brain that you are indeed capable, so it can get out of fight or flight mode and give you the motivation to keep moving forward rather than getting frozen with fear.
3. Set meaningful goals
Uncertainty and lack of direction is the perfect way to fire up your fears. Being unsure about where you’re heading can further trigger your brain to feel unsafe, so it will again do what it can to hold you back (i.e. it’ll feed you fears and make you procrastinate).
When you set meaningful goals based on your values and what you ultimately want however, you give your brain solid parameters to work towards and it gets the certainty it needs to allow you to move through challenges with more confidence and drive.
- Starting at the end point, your ultimate goals – in the next 5-10 years where will you be? What will you have achieved?
- Once you have a list of a few specific goals you can start to work back from there. Ask yourself, what needs to happen in the next year for me to move closer to those ultimate goals?
- Then break it right down until you get to your daily tasks. And then move on to the next step…
4. Make love not war with your to-do list
Firstly, understand that your to-do list will never end. Secondly, be ok with that. At the end of every day write your tasks for the next day, prioritising them into:A – Must get done
B – Should get done
C – Would be nice if they got done
D – Get done by someone else
Be disciplined with getting the tasks done in order of A-D, do not allow yourself to move on to a B task until you’ve completed all the A’s. This way you will ensure the most important tasks are done, and thus receive the greatest return on your investment of time.
I also recommend being disciplined with crossing the tasks off your list as you do them, in fact even if you do a task that isn’t on your to-do list pop it on and then cross it off immediately. This simple act is like giving yourself a little power-up – it makes you feel good and so you want to do more.
5. Create structure and routine in your day
This gives you certainty, direction, clarity, motivation and more time. It may include:
- A morning and bedtime routine, with technology limits and time for yourself
- Set working hours
- Little breaks throughout the day to allow you to step back and regain energy, clarity and focus (these may include a short walk around the office or block, a non-work related chat with a colleague, a cheeky meditation or breathing session, or perhaps even chuck your headphones in and rock out to a favourite song)
- A lunch break
- Blocks of time for specific tasks, e.g. 1 hour for accounting, 2 hours for sales calls etc
- Time with loved ones and/or doing something fun
Employ these steps and I guarantee you will take back a massive chunk of your time. Game on baby!
Want to go into some of these strategies in more depth, and learn how to focus your time so you can nail the next quarter (and say cheerio to procrastination)?