Still procrastinating? Cut yourself some slack (and then get curious).
According to our old friend Google, procrastination is defined as, "the action of delaying or postponing something." According to Tim Urban a more accurate definition is, "the action of ruining your own life for no apparent reason".
A little over-dramatic? Perhaps. But I know from my clients and community that procrastination is a huge productivity stumbling block that not only stops them from making progress in their business but also stands in the way of enjoyable, guilt-free rest.
At best, procrastination is an irritant that causes tasks to take longer, eating into time we'd rather spend sitting in the sunshine. At worst, it can lead to debilitating anxiety, feelings of failure and self-judgement. Nasty.
As with so many things in life - adult acne, the perfect marketing strategy, finding jeans that fit - we just want to be told the answer. We want to know the quick fix that will solve the problem in one fell swoop so we can crack on and achieve all the amazing things we know we'd be capable of if only that procrastination monkey would let us take the wheel for a change!
But as with those spots that just won't budge, there's no single solution that will work for everyone with a simple 'swish and flick' and a correctly enunciated incantation (yes, I'm re-reading Harry Potter right now)! The jeans that fit you perfectly may well look terrible on me.
I tell you this not to be defeatist, but because I want you to cut yourself some slack. If, despite your very best efforts, procrastination is still getting in your way that doesn't make you a failure. It makes you human.
Of course, I'm not suggesting that you give up. That there's nothing you can do about it so you might as well admit defeat. That's not it at all! What I'd love is for you to get curious. Get curious about your own procrastination patterns and what does and doesn't work for you when it comes to getting that pesky monkey away from the controls!
In the spirit of experimentation, here are three very different ideas you could play with:
1) Lift the lid
Often, procrastination is a symptom of something going on under the surface. Imposter syndrome? Fear? A lack of clarity around what you're doing and why? Is there a deeper mindset issue at play that's causing you to reach for Facebook when you should be working? Take a look at this piece of genius from Leo Babauta in which he suggests that simply sitting still could be the answer.
2) Change your environment
Looking for a more practical approach? Something you can do right now? This may sound obvious, but try removing your procrastination tool of choice from your environment. Getting curious about your patterns will help you identify what you reach for most frequently, whether that's your phone or opening up tabs of doom in your browser that cause you to spend the next 20 minutes engaged in a heated debate about the relative merits of hamsters versus guinea pigs. Thankfully, the very technology that often causes our procrastination also provides us with tools that can help. Think flight mode on your phone, or Freedom on your laptop.
3) Unleash the panic monster
If you've seen Tim Urban's brilliant TED Talk, you'll know all about the Panic Monster. The Panic Monster is the only thing the Procrastination Monkey is afraid of. When it shows up, shizzle gets done. But it doesn't show up unless there's a deadline or some sort of negative consequence to protect you from. But what if you could summon the Panic Monster before the situation becomes dire? That's where setting lots of small deadlines and getting accountability can be your saviour! This one comes with a health warning, though - panic isn't something I generally encourage! So please be gentle. You're looking for just the right amount of pressure to get you motivated but without tipping you over into stress.
There's no quick and easy fix to procrastination, but get curious and see if playing with some of these ideas works for you.
Procrastination is the theme of the week over in my Facebook group, The Getting Stuff Done Collective. If you'd like to join the conversation - perhaps you have some procrastination-defeating strategies of your own? - I'd love to see you there!
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