ONE Thing you can do to Stop Procrastinating
Do you procrastinate? Have you got any funny stories about things you’ve done to put off doing the things you really need to do? In this video and in the blog below I tell you a few of my funny stories and share ONE thing that has worked for me to stop the procrastination…
When I was at university there were six of us sharing a house. Four of my friends seemed to have no problem at all with procrastination, but my friend Adam and I struggled a little bit. Adam was one of the messiest people I knew, but you’d always know when we had an exam coming up or a piece of coursework due in, because suddenly our rooms would become immaculate. You’d often find us at the cinema or at the Harvester buffet, sitting chatting while our friends were studying. One of our fitfish team told me that when she had an essay deadline or a sermon to write, she found herself clearing out all her handbags – even hoovering them – and cleaning her hair brushes… that is some extreme procrastination!
So what is it that you do? I’d love to hear some of your stories.
These days I find myself procrastinating a bit in the morning with the shower. I often lead exercise classes first thing, and I need to leave the house at 8:50 at the latest to get my son to school. But sometimes I find it’s 8:45 and I haven’t had a shower and I really need one because whatever I’m doing at nine o’clock involves me having had a shower. But I put it off to the very last moment; even in the shower I procrastinate about getting out.
So the result of procrastination is lots of wasted mental energy, as you just end up thinking about it more than you would do if you get it done straight away. You end up stressed and rushed and you compromise on other things. You don’t show up as a true version of yourself. It’s only by studying as an adult that I realise how much of a detrimental impact procrastination had on me when I was a student the first time around. I definitely didn’t reach my full potential because I wasted a lot of time!
So why do we procrastinate and how can we stop it?
We procrastinate to avoid pain. So the first thing to do is to work out what pain you are avoiding.
Is it physical pain? If it’s something to do with exercise or drinking more water (not really painful but perhaps there’s a bit of a physical barrier) then it could be physically related.
Or perhaps you think that the things you are avoiding are boring. I find showers quite boring (until I’m in them and they’re okay). The thought of going into the shower just bores me, so that’s why I put it off! I’d far rather be doing other things in my life than getting into the shower.
Is it that you think you might not understand something? If you have to tackle your pension, your tax return or some other admin or paperwork, do you see this as a bit of a hurdle? Do you worry about not understanding something or perhaps you’re scared of looking silly?
We only stop procrastinating when the pain of what we need to get done outweighs the pain of not doing it. That’s why you may find yourself cramming for an exam or doing your tax return at the last minute. The pain of not knowing anything when you open that exam paper suddenly outweighs the pain of sitting down to study. And when I’m getting into the shower at 8:47, it’s because the pain of turning up a meeting at nine o’clock sweaty finally outweighs the pain of getting into the shower.
How can you push the pain point of procrastination, so the pain of not doing the thing you are putting off, outweighs the pain of doing it now? You want the pain of not doing it to be stronger than actually doing it. A few thoughts…
- Can you keep to top-of-mind the impact of not doing said task? So, even if it is a few months until your tax return is due, can you just keep top of mind what will happen if you don’t do it, so that worries you more than just getting on with it.
- Can you have some kind of accountability, that means you’re letting someone down by procrastinating? So, if you are trying to get out and walk more but are putting it off, can you arrange to meet a friend for a walk? In this example, the pain of feeling you’ve let them down, or hurt them if you don’t go can be strong and outweigh the pain of actually going. One of my group members shared that she finds packing for holiday hard, and is something she puts off. She’s going on holiday tomorrow and so has arranged to meet a friend and help them out at a food bank, if she’s finished packing. She wants to go and help and will feel bad if she doesn’t go, so this will push her to get the packing done.
- Can you make it that you lose something for every day that goes by that you don’t do the thing you need to do? Perhaps that’s putting money in a jar, or using the ‘Stakk’ app to donate to a charity that wouldn’t otherwise be your first choice (e.g. a dogs’ home if you are a cat person, or not your child’s school but the one down the road)?
- Can you remind yourself what happened the last time you were too late, or last time you were too rushed and use that feeling to push you to do things differently this time around? Or can you think of the advantages of doing things now? Think about how good it feels to have a dreaded task behind you.
- Perhaps you can set yourself false deadlines, an earlier alarm, or an earlier due date in your diary. Some people will even set their clocks faster so that they feel that the pressure comes a bit earlier.
There are lots of ways you might increase the pain of not getting something done – and remember it’s often the case that once you get started it’s not as bad as you thought it would be, and it probably won’t take as long as you feared either. If you use these techniques to shorten and hopefully eliminate your procrastination, that will free up mental energy time and will help you to be the person that you meant to be!
I’d love to know if that helps you – let us know in the comments below. And if you are looking for some help to overcome these kinds of challenges, or some accountability on your health journey, why not have a look at our Healthy Whole and Free Course? It’s delivered to your inbox in bite-size chunks, you get a weekly video with a couple of things to do every week for 6-months, along with some live teaching and coaching elements and a Facebook group for support and encouragement. You can join at any time – find out more and sign up here!