What in the world do we have to do to stop procrastinating?
Procrastination is super sneaky and annoying.
None of us wants to procrastinate routinely, but many of us get trapped into the never-ending cycle of delay – stress – embarrassment – sleep deprivation – delay – stress – embarrassment – sleep deprivation. We’re so spent it feels like we have no energy to do other things — especially new ventures which require creativity and clear thinking.
So why is it so easy to fall into a cycle of procrastination, yet so hard to escape from it?
Our false beliefs about how to get things done may be the reason we can never seem to stop procrastinating. The following is a quick list of 5 common myths about productivity that tend to keep us wedded to procrastination:
What You Need to Know to Stop Procrastinating
Which of these 5 assumptions do you tend to make? Keep tabs on yourself after reading them to make sure these false ideas don’t block you from being productive in the future.
- I need to be very anxious in order to good work. We are taught as early as elementary school that doing good work is a good thing. As we make our way through middle school and high school, our work becomes more complex, but so do our feelings about doing that work. Somewhere on that journey through high school, we become anxious about a paper, exam, or grade, and then, lo and behold, we end up associating our work with stress. We start feeling stressed before we work. We can even feel stressed at just the idea of working. And that is where procrastination walks in the door. At first, it is an innocent delay, but then procrastination becomes more of a routine reaction to work. So what’s the answer to this problem? Realize you do not need to be stressed out to do good work. We may actually do our best work when our minds and bodies are clear of stress and anxiety. The next time you have an assignment or project you need to get done, decide what your first steps should be and get those done without creating extra emotional drama and distress.
- My work represents my value in and to the world. This particular myth is probably the single greatest cause of procrastination. When we believe our work somehow represents our value as a person in the world, our work becomes more than just work — it takes on too great a significance as the concrete symbol of how good or bad we are as people. No wonder people refuse to finish their work and choose procrastination instead! The good news is our work is not a full measure of our value as human beings. It is not even close. The solution to feeling this way? The next time you have to get work done, address the work and what the work needs from you. Don’t demand that the work reflect your value as a person. Keep it simple, straightforward, and do your best, but don’t overwork it in any way.
- All of my work needs to be done perfectly. This is a variation of item #2. When we attach our self-worth to our work, we then force ourselves to make everything we produce top-notch. If we don’t, then we risk facing blows to our self-esteem. But again, our work does not represent who we are or what we are worth. So how do you deal with your perfectionistic tendencies? Do good work but make sure you don’t sacrifice your well-being in the process. Push away any thoughts about how other people might react to your work. They are going to have a reactions, but those are not yours to control. Let your work stand for itself.
- I have to keep my problems getting things done hidden from other people. When we feel badly about our actions, we try to keep them secret from other people. Our intentions are pure, but we feel the need to isolate ourselves from people around us because we feel ashamed. Problem is, when we become socially isolated, our procrastination takes over even more powerfully. We no longer have someone to talk with, someone to alert to our difficulty, someone who can remind us everything will be okay. Since procrastination blooms in an atmosphere of isolation, make sure you take specific action to reconnect with the people in your life. Doing so will re-energize you and help you to regain your natural motivation.
- I will always feel shame and embarrassment about my procrastination, so there’s no payoff for trying to change my ways. Thinking that we will never be able to stop procrastinating causes us to feel very negatively about ourselves. This negativity prevents us from reaching out to others for support or advice or help. It also makes the pressure we feel about our unfinished work even greater. The good news is the idea that we have to remain in a shamed and embarrassed state forever is a big lie. As soon as we make the decision to do anything within our power to move forward, the positive feelings begin to flow in. If you feel stuck because of negative feelings, make sure you speak with someone who can help you feel better again as soon as possible.
So, are you ready to stop procrastinating yet?
When we realize the ideas that keep rattling around in our heads are erroneous, we get a little more courageous when it comes to fighting the impulse to procrastinate.
We decide we are going to keep our work:
- good enough (and not “perfect”)
- connected with the people who need to see our work
- guilt- and shame-free
Sound good to you? I thought so.
Adjust your mindset in order to get the things you need to get done done. If you cannot at this time, please do not worry. After all, worry is the whole reason procrastination is so powerfully addictive and why it so often seems like the best idea in town. Take the time to develop a more positive mindset, to feel less afraid about what work and working means to your self-esteem, and to have real patience and kindness for yourself.
It is possible for you to stop procrastinating soon. It will be worth your extra effort.