Conquering Procrastination With A Strong Why

You Gotta Wanna…or do you for conquering procrastination?

Are you are having trouble getting motivated and are finding yourself locked in a pattern of action-avoidance.

Perhaps you simply can’t be bothered because you can’t muster a compelling enough argument to get started.

This kind of avoidance has a few root causes.

  1. The end seems too far away – so it doesn’t matter what I do today
  2. The end simply doesn’t float your boat
  3. I might stuff up…again
  4. I want the outcome but I don’t like this activity
  5. You feel you have no agency or ownership of the activity

1. The End Seems Too Far Away

People who procrastinate often focus too far away to sense the consequences of their avoidance enough to stimulate action. They figure it will feel better now not to do this and don’t consider the stress and self-disdain that the procrastination will inevitably bring.

To help you get started try focusing on your this by focusing on the benefits you will experience when you complete the task.  Conquering procrastination could involve painting as vivid picture of the completed task. For example:

  • I keep procrastinating on cleaning the house....well imagine walking into a clean house and the comfort of not feeling ashamed when a guest arrives, 
  • I keep procrastinating on going for a run....well imagine the joy of getting up the stairs without panting, 
  • I keep procrastinating on what somebody has asked me to do....well imagine the smile on their face as you tell them you’ve done it....or the feeling of going to the movies with a clear conscience.

Try to connect with the feeling you will experience when the job is done and just how good that will feel.

2. Conquering Procrastination If the end simply doesn’t float your boat

Perhaps the end you are pursuing is not something you are particularly drawn to.

Maybe you are pretty indifferent to a clean house, a great garden design or a balanced account for the business. Perhaps you have been asked to write a proposal or a piece of policy you don’t really agree with by someone you don’t really respect – but it’s part of the job.

If this is the case, then conquering procrastination could involve connecting your achievement win to a higher order goal. For example:

  • Perhaps you want to be a good role model for your children or you want to lighten the load of responsibility on your partner or colleague.
  • Maybe your efforts, however dull the activity, will keep your job safe or will contribute to the quality of life for others.
  • Perhaps you have entered into a work contract that obligates you – and the importance of protecting your professional reputation and self-worth make the job worth doing.

Which type of procrastinator are you? Find out here

3. I might stuff up…again

Fear of failure looms large in the motivation theft that gives rise to procrastination.

On top of that the way our brains are wired makes sure that the damage done by this thief is long lasting. Why?

You know the scenario -  

Step 1 - I need to start this. Why should I bother? I don’t know what I’m doing anyway and I’m only going to mess up.

Step 2 – I feel anxious because I know I should be doing something else so I can’t really engage with anything else I’m doing – even the things that make me feel better – like sleeping

Step 3 – I feel anxious that I am always feeling anxious and can’t seem to get into a state to do things.

So in the end we are in a kind of anxiety paralysis because we are worried about being too anxious to do things. AAARRGH….

Here are some steps to conquering procrastination:

  • Catch yourself when you notice you are envisaging a negative result.
  • Recognize that having a negative result is just one possibility amongst others – consider framing the best outcome, the most achievable outcome, the acceptable outcome.
  • Check in to make sure you are not catastrophizing – telling yourself that if you don’t get everything done and done perfectly it will be a disaster. This creates the very anxiety that prevents starting on something and can ensure the predicted catastrophe, loss of reputation and self-esteem. Ask yourself this one question to kickstart you into action!
  • Start small by breaking the job into little assignments. Tick off smaller chunks and decrease stress by building smaller successes en route to completion. Keep a list so that the reward of the ticking off is visible and it is easy to see where you are going because the next little piece is right there for you. Try our 3D approach to overcome procrastination. 
  • Get the knowledge you need to stop the feeling that you are a 'klutz' you don’t know what you’re doing.
  • Get help from people – find someone who will keep you accountable or find a work buddy and work together.
  • Can the perfectionism – perhaps it is your uncompromising high standards that are preventing you from starting lest you fall below your potentially unrealistic view of what’s required.

Self-esteem and self-discipline are closely entangled. Lack of self-efficacy prevents achieving the things that would bolster self-esteem. Poor self-worth and lack of confidence in turn inhibits the self-discipline that would get to these successes. 

If you feel trapped in this kind of Groundhog Day try the above remedies to break the cycle.

4. I don’t like this activity

Perhaps you should rethink this activity. Pushing mud uphill can be a very demotivating.

If you find yourself engaging in something that:

  • you have no interest in
  • take no pleasure in doing
  • have little or no investment in the outcome might need to reconsider the value of committing to this activity.

Constantly forcing yourself to do something you don’t like will inevitably become a dispiriting burden whereas doing something that you like will bring its own motivation. Herbert Harris, author of The Twelve Universal Laws of Success, suggests, “Is there anything about the way you think or feel about yourself that will frustrate your success or effort? If so, handle it immediately.”

The trouble with routinely trying to do stuff we don’t enjoy is that we leave ourselves open to our frustration getting the better of us. We become anxious and adrenalin-fueled and risk falling for our own procrastination pick-up lines. The resulting feelings of anguish disable our ability to think and therefore complete or even get started on the work at hand. We are set up to fail.

Steve Jobs is famous for saying:

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. 

For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?' And whenever the answer has been 'No' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

5. You feel you have no agency or ownership of the activity

Ownership is for many a necessary requirement to feel responsibility for outcomes. This kind of agency also translates into having some choice and decision making as to the way something is carried out. 

The idea of autonomous motivation connects to someone engaging in an activity for the intrinsic value of the activity – as opposed to, for example, controlled motivation where activity is undertaken because of the threat of shame or punishment or negative consequences.  

Setting your own intentions can assist in bringing a sense of agency the activities on which you are procrastinating.

Negotiating for a greater say in the decision making around an activity can lead you to identifying more closely with a project’s success of failure.

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