You likely believe the root issue causing your procrastination is laziness, lack of discipline, lack of self-control, immaturity, lack of commitment, or some similar character defect. But guess what? It’s probably none of those.
Firstly, most procrastinators are not I repeat, not lazy, undisciplined, etc. As a matter of fact, most tend to be dynamos in areas other than the one they're procrastinating in. Among the peculiar agonies of procrastination is that we're frequently productive in areas of our lives other than the one closest to our heart.
Secondly, applying damaging labels like “lazy” or “undisciplined” to yourself is, from a problem-solving standpoint, worse than worthless. Not only do those labels misidentify the issue, they really make the situation worse by sabotaging your self-assurance and predisposing you to failure.
Moreover, people frequently live up or down to the labels; so that if somebody repeatedly calls you, or you repeatedly call yourself, lazy or uncommitted, you're likely to live “down” to that label.
More often than not, solving, or resolving, an issue is a rather trivial exercise when we understand what the problem is. Treating procrastination as a symptom of laziness or a lack of discipline doesn’t work, as those are not the causes of procrastination. Instead, they're symptoms, just like procrastination itself is a symptom, of a deeper issue.
That issue is commonly either:
You were never taught the habits of productive work. As we live in a vacuum, this likely means you’ve rather learned the “default” habits of low productivity or non-productivity.
This results in what I call Behavior Based Procrastination.
Fear: of change, success, failure, etc.
This results in what I call Dread Based Procrastination.
Frequently, individuals suffer from both.
Behavior Based Procrastination is a comparatively easy issue to define and solve.
Dread Based Procrastination is more complex. Unlike Behavior Based Procrastination, which is commonly caused by a lack of data or training, dread Based Procrastination is caused by, as its name implies, concern.
Dread is unfortunately a major force in a lot of people’s lives: it’s frequently a rational, if not optimal, reaction to the troubles and stresses of life and an ambitious path.
Dread Based Procrastination’s disguises itself by mimicking productivity. It does this, commonly, by generating one of four characteristic anti-productive behaviors: perfectionism, negativity, hypersensitivity and panic. Most procrastinators are prone to at least one of them, and most are prone to all 4.
Panic deserves a special mention. It’s not truly an obstacle in and of itself, but acts as an obstacle “amplifier”, blowing your fears out of symmetry and increasing the odds that you'll move back into one of the anti-productive behaviors. The job of defeating dread based procrastination is basically the job of overcoming panic, so that when you experience an instance of dread, doubt or discomfort, you don't become overwhelmed by it and get bumped off your course."
The procedure of overcoming your obstacles is the really essence of the human journey. If you’ve been procrastinating a while, you're likely demoralized and have lost sight of your strengths, gifts and virtues.
Once you quit running from your obstacles and begin working to overpower them, you'll reclaim those favorable qualities and likewise probably discover a few wonderful new ones. This procedure of reclamation and growth is among life’s most amazing and joyful experiences.
Here are the five steps to overcome procrastination
1. Begin little, and aspire for tiny advances
2. Extravagantly reinforce each tiny success
3. Dismiss “failures” except to acquire knowledge out of them
4. Expect plateaus and lapsing
5. Stay at it!
“Begin little” stands for practicing the 3 productivity actions (a.k.a., “not procrastinating”) on no more than 2 or 3 tasks at a time and the tasks you practice on ought to be simple ones. Beginning with that novel you’ve been blocked on for 10 years is likely an unsound idea.
Household chores are an excellent thing to at the start practice on as we tend to procrastinate on them not out of dread, but merely because they’re ho-hum. So practice not procrastinating on washing up the dishes or laundry (or mowing the lawn, or taking the automobile in for an oil change, and so forth.), if those are jobs you routinely procrastinate on.
If the tasks you're practicing on appear embarrassingly little or trivial, you're doing it precisely right! The key is to get used to the feeling of not procrastinating, and you'll only have the chance to do so if you at first practice on activities that offer a high chance of success. Likewise, pay attention to the (likely numerous) areas of your life where you don’t procrastinate, and observe the feeling of sedate self-command you have while approaching those tasks.
It's that same feeling you're aiming to arouse around the tasks you're presently procrastinating on and are well on your way to resolving the issue. (Yes, you're aiming to produce particular feelings inside yourself. successful individuals consciously work to accomplish particular moods, as opposed to passively accepting whatever emotions happen to grab them. A lot of unsuccessful individuals, in contrast, don’t even recognize that that’s even possible to accomplish.)
Make the essential shift from viewing procrastination as an inherent character defect to seeing it as a behavioral issue you may resolve. In the meantime, getting the dishes done, flossing regularly, and so forth, will themselves have a beneficent outcome on your mood, and likewise empower you to arrive at more changes.
Only after you've gotten good at not procrastinating on the trivial junk should you start practicing it on your other ambitious endeavor. Now, it's doubly crucial for you to begin small. If you’re a writer, don’t set out to put down an entire chapter, but only a page or paragraph. Or, if you’re an entrepreneur, don’t aim to spend the whole morning doing sales calls, but only 10 minutes.
When a youngster fails to meet a goal, the mean parent tends to criticize and blame, while the good, effective parent provides compassion and understanding. The good parent likewise helps the youngster keep the failure in perspective, reminding him that the “failure” likely isn’t as dreadful as he thinks it is, and that there are plenty of other things he has succeeded at. With the good parent’s help, the youngster grows up to be a resilient grownup that is not so afraid of failure that he procrastinates.
You have to be your own good parent, which means that whenever you bomb at not procrastinating or another goal, you shouldn't criticize or blame yourself, but rather respond with compassionate objectivity. Critique, depletes your self-regard, sabotages your self-assurance, mischaracterizes the issue, and only makes things worse. Rather, be a compassionate observer and analyst of your situation, holding in mind that there are frequently perfectly great reasons behind procrastination, even if the procrastination reaction itself isn’t optimal. The proper reaction to failure is to ponder it just long enough to come up with a resolution so that the same thing doesn’t occur again.
A plateau is when you stay stuck at a level of accomplishment in spite of repeated attempts to move ahead. Lapsing is when you really lose ground and get less effective. Both are discouraging, and yet both are an inevitable piece of any personal growth process. If you've an “off” day, week, month or year, don’t pick apart, or shame or blame yourself: simply accept it for what it is, and hope to do better shortly.
Plateaus and lapsing frequently indicate that you're setting too ambitious goals. If that's indeed the case, the resolution is to go back to a prior level of achievement you’re comfortable with and remain there for a while till you find your confidence. Then, remember to set humbler and attainable goals in the future.
Plateaus and lapsing may likewise indicate that you're experiencing personal or other issues that are interfering with your ability to do your work. Most of us may tackle only one major issue at a time and, let’s face it, a lot of issues, including sickness or a financial crisis, may take precedence even over making progress on our earnest dream. If something does pull you away from your aspiration, just do what you have to do without shame or remorse or regret.
Finally, you'll be able to return to your work quite possibly bringing to it a richer perspective as a result of your “sabbatical”.
Those who succeed are forever those who hang in. Occasionally, they have to temporarily put their challenging dream aside while they work at other priorities. But they forever come back to it. They never quit and neither should you.