We all know the feeling. There are things we need to do, but we just can’t bring ourselves to do them. Household chores, minor inconveniences and even major projects can be areas of procrastination. We know that we need to start these things right now, but some hidden force seems to keep us from taking action.
The good thing is that there is a single root cause for all procrastination. In essence, we procrastinate because we link more pain to taking action then doing nothing at all. Unfortunately, there are many reasons we link this pain to taking action, which are incredibly varied. So, how can we stop procrastination in all its forms?
Procrastination from Drudgery
We all hate doing things we think will be dull, time consuming and difficult. I don’t know many people who like doing taxes or household chores. This kind of procrastination is the most common. Luckily this is also the easiest form of procrastination to dispel.
First realize that the reason we aren’t starting is because we are linking more pain to starting than doing nothing at all. We also link more pleasure to not starting then we do to taking action now. This is true in all forms of procrastination, so the key to dispelling it is to start here. Change the balance of pain and pleasure so that you will gain more pleasure from acting then not acting and you can immediately be rid of procrastination.
Some ways we can shift this balance when dealing with procrastination caused by drudgery:
1) Give yourself a reward after you are done. If you need to organize your closet, give yourself a reward after your done. This could range from one of your favorite snacks to watching a television show or movie.
2) Make the task enjoyable. Being boring isn’t an inherent property of the task. Boring is our perception of the task. If you can change a task from being boring to interesting and fun, then you will want to do it. The easiest way to do this might be to just put some fun music on in the background. You might also want to do you chore in a more creative way, so it becomes more interesting.
3) If the task is a large one, focus on starting rather than finishing. Knowing you have to finish a large task means you likely won’t want to even start at all. Instead box out a certain time period, like thirty minutes or an hour. After you are done with that you can get your reward no matter how much you have left.
Procrastination from Confusion
This one is the most subtle form of procrastination. Often we don’t even realize that this is the reason we are procrastinating. Basically, procrastination from confusion is when we put off doing something because we aren’t exactly sure what we need to do. Complex or new projects might fall into this category because we aren’t exactly sure where to start.
If you are suffering from this type of procrastination there is only one solution. Plan. Planning out exactly how you are going to do the activity will give you the clarity you need to get started. You might have a project or task that you have never done before and aren’t sure how to start. When this comes in you need to plan exactly what you are going to do.
If you have blanks in your plan because you lack the necessary knowledge or experience, then you already know where to start. You need to start by gathering that information. Rent out some library books on the subject, talk to other people who have experience in that area.
Procrastination from Fear
This is the most lethal form of procrastination. Procrastination from fear results when we are avoiding the task because we are afraid of starting. This kind of procrastination is incredibly dangerous because this kind of procrastination can lag on indefinitely. This kind of procrastination comes with the most important areas of our life. This could mean avoiding a career change, staying in a loveless marriage or changing a destructive habit.
The first step to overcome this kind of procrastination is to figure out the truth, as brutal as it may be. We need to admit to ourselves that we need to start, but we don’t currently have the power to do so. If you are still in the wishy-washy phase of denying that you have an issue that requires your attention, you can’t move forward. Don’t rationalize or excuse, just accept the truth.
Once we are able to accept the truth of our situation we need to make a decision. We need to make a real and solid decision that we are going to do what we need to do. Even if we don’t think we have the power to face through our fears in this area, we need to start by making a decision to follow through.
Armed with the truth and a committed decision we now actually have to take steps to break down the fear and overcome our procrastination. There are many techniques for overcoming personal fears, some will not apply to every situation, but here are a few to start:
1) Use progressive training to overcome your fears. Focus on taking incremental steps to gradually increase your courage until you are ready to break through you fears. This can be a slow process, but for some powerful fears it may be the only way to break through them. Other changes like a career or relationship change may not allow us to take this gradual approach, however.
2) Talk to other people you know will support you. Getting support from others is one of the best ways to get going. Here we can use the power of peer pressure to our advantage. There is a key issue with this approach. Only talk to people that you know will support you. If you are want to start your own business, talking to people who have a rigidly employee mindset probably won’t encourage you.
3) Learn more. Knowledge can be a powerful tool against fear. If you aren’t sure about starting a business, trying a new diet or changing careers you might want to do a lot of research about the subject. Armed with more information you will naturally be more confident and able to overcome your fears.
Procrastination can take many forms, but it is important to remember that it is ultimately caused because you link more pain to acting than not acting. Changing those links in your brain will immediately remove the procrastination. Taking control of procrastination, whether it is from boring chores, daunting tasks or fear will give you control over your life.