“Never put off for tomorrow, what you can do today.” ~ Thomas Jefferson
If you are like me, you may put some things off till the last minute but immediately take action on other things that really interest you.
Do you feel like you are procrastinating in some areas of your life till it becomes a big crisis?
Do you get frustrated and upset at yourself for routinely procrastinating in some areas of your life?
Let us look at procrastination more closely and become more aware of how it operates in stealthy ways in our life and creates problems for us.
“What is deferred is not avoided.” ― Sir Thomas More
1. Awareness of Putting Things Off
The best place to begin is to recognize that we do procrastinate on some key issues in our life. Putting things off may have a cascade effect on the quality of your life because over time the little things add up.
You may need to remind yourself that there will always be things in life that you do not particularly enjoy doing and there will be other things that you love doing.
By assuming that everything should be painless and effortless, we set up a lot of resistance.
If you accept that some things are difficult for you to do and seek assistance or delegate, you may have a more productive result.
It gets to be a problem when we do not do something because it is unpleasant and we are unwilling to get any help for it.
Accept that you may need assistance and guidance in some areas while in some areas you may excel!
“It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci
2. Eating the Frog
In Brian Tracy’s book, Eat that Frog, he suggests the best way to get going with your day is to eat that frog first. In other words, complete the most unpleasant task first before embarking on other pleasurable tasks of the day.
It is important to keep in mind is that you may be putting things off because they are massive frogs in your life.
You may find it impossible to grasp your mind around the huge frog and find ways of getting started. Another idea that may be upsetting your progress is that you have a preconceived idea of how quickly you need to eat that frog.
It may just be quite impossible to eat that frog in the time frame that you give yourself and as a result, you delay doing it at all.
The solution: eat small portions and keep at it till you are able to eat the entire frog. Get started on eating that frog. Once you begin with small actions, it gets less difficult to move forward.
“A year from now you may wish you had started today.” ~ Karen Lamb
3. Incomplete Information
One of the big aspects of procrastination is that you may have incomplete information about what you are putting off.
We get uncomfortable about doing something because the lack of information is enough to put us in our zone of discomfort and inaction.
A great analogy of incomplete information and filling gaps is the Swiss cheese example that Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy gives in his TED talk.
According to Khan, learning something complex is similar to filling up holes in Swiss cheese. Filling the holes up is key to getting to understand the whole picture and doing well.
Even people who are experts in their fields often have small holes in their understanding that they seek to fill up.
When you procrastinate, it might be because you may have gaps in your understanding that make it difficult to move forward. You may need to fill in the gaps that are preventing you to become comfortable with the whole picture and taking action.
Get more information about the task that you are procrastinating. Getting more information will make you more comfortable and you are more likely to take action.
“Do what you know needs to be done.” ~ Lynda A. Calder, The Enigma Diaries: Hidden History
4. Fuzzy steps: Unsure of How to Proceed Forward
Even if you understand something, you may procrastinate if you do not have a clear plan about how to move forward.
If you do not have a map or a GPS to a city, you will find it very difficult to navigate. In the same way, when the next few steps are fuzzy, it may be enough to put brakes on your actions.
Some people are inherently wired better to handle fuzzy steps. But a lot of us do not do well with unclear and vague instructions. Given a choice between following unclear instructions and not taking action, we choose the latter.
Make sure that you understand how to proceed forward. Write down the project or task into sequential steps and begin with the first one.
“If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it.” ~ Olin Miller
5. Anxiety and Discomfort
You may have significant discomfort and anxiety around a certain task and the anxiety may effectively stop you in your tracks. It may benefit you greatly to take stock of how much anxiety you have around something that you are putting off.
And you may want to get aware of the possibility that sometimes you may put things off till the last minute because you have become used to the anxiety and stress.
In that role, stress becomes the cue or trigger for you to take action and get results or the reward.
This becomes a habitual loop like the habit loops that Charles Duhigg talks about in his book, The power of Habit.
According to Duhigg, habit research has shown that habits can be broken down into a cue or a trigger, the action that follows and the reward.
The problem with doing everything at the last minute and being addicted to stress and anxiety is that there is research indicating that it is counter productive.
Contrary to popular belief, doing things at the last minute degrades your happiness and creativity levels.
If you are anxious around doing something, you may need to develop modalities like deep breathing and relaxation techniques to lessen your anxiety levels.
You may need to seek assistance or delegate the tasks that you find difficult to accomplish.
Here is a summary of the 5-step process:
1. Become aware that you are putting things off.
2. Eat the frog in small chunks by getting started.
3. Get more information about what you are delaying.
4. Outline a clear process to proceed forward.
5. Reduce your anxiety and discomfort or delegate.
Do you put things off till the last minute in your life? Please leave your comments below. I would love to hear from you!