This is a guest post by By Dr. Shawn Haywood
Procrastination is the opposite of living or feeling liberated. In fact, procrastination feels terrible and serves only as a way to beat ourselves up!
So why do people procrastinate anyway? Is it laziness? Lack of will power or drive? Forgetfulness maybe?
If you procrastinate often, you’ve likely heard every kind of criticism there is, from laziness to low motivation. You may even feel like procrastination is a moral crime. Yet, laziness, low motivation, lack of will power or even desire are rarely at the root of procrastination.
“Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday!” Don Marquis
Ha ha! I love this quote. Let its playfulness help you keep a lightness about this often-painful topic of procrastination. Some people - executives, business owners and other professionals - sometimes have intense pain and history surrounding procrastination. Unfortunately, procrastination is widely misunderstood BUT also easy to handle when you have the right tools.
There are four basic reasons for procrastination: disinterest, time stealers, fear and ADD. Contrary to popular belief, procrastination is RARELY due to laziness, lack of will power or forgetfulness and the like. Let’s break it down…
1) Disinterest Grab a seat, as the following statement will come as a complete shock! WE DON’T DO WHAT WE DON’T WANT TO DO! Ha! Big surprise right? We naturally procrastinate with that which we don’t enjoy, don’t want to do or aren’t proficient in.
There are people who are naturally better than others at starting and completing low-interest tasks. In any job or home life, for example, there exists tasks we don’t want to, yet they are “part of the gig.”
But, you can keep low-interest tasks to an absolute minimum. Otherwise, your overall level of inspiration and drive will decline rapidly. Eighty plus percent of our time can and should be spent doing what makes our heart sing!
Take Action! Hire out, eliminate or delegate 80-90 percent of all tasks that lead you to procrastinate. Keep only the few tasks that you and only you can be responsible for.
You might have to loosen the reigns on your inner control freak, but life will become lighter and more liberated as you align your life with more joy-filled and inspiring tasks and release the rest! There are inexpensive resources for getting your dreaded-but-important tasks complete. For example, you could hire a stay-at-home mom or college student who needs a few extra bucks to handle various items, or you can hire a virtual assistant a few hours each week.
The best way to tackle the loathsome procrastination tasks only you can handle: SCHEDULE TIME and DO THEM AS SOON AS YOU ROLL OUT OF BED OR AS SOON AS YOU GET TO WORK.
No email, FB or text chatting until complete! Do nothing else until what you don’t want to do is done. This tip will change your life.
Add the element of playful pressure, and tell your staff about your scheduled morning/day so they can tease you and give you the silent treatment until the undesirable tasks are complete. They will LOVE seeing your humanity and playing with you a bit. This practice will become an energy boost (instead of an energy drain), mental and emotional relief and a fantastic leadership initiative (at home and at work)!
2) Time Stealers Confession time…what’s your go to drug of choice for escaping or distraction? Facebook? IG? Email? Web surfing? Web shopping? Stock market updates? Texting or calling friends? Cleaning? Eating? Or something else?
Whatever your drug(s) of choice are, it’s time to come clean! Engaging time stealers is a fantastic way to avoid doing what you don’t want to do anyway!
“Email alone steals at least 100 minutes from each and every work day…”
Take Action! Pull out a sheet of paper and jot down your top five time stealers.
Now, create systems to remove each problem. Here are a couple examples:
1) Turn your phone off for all but two 15-30 time blocks each day to make or return calls.
2) Remove your email icon from your desktop. This will make it difficult to get to it so you’re not easily tempted.
3) Use a website blocker software so Facebook (or other tempting sites) cannot be accessed from your laptop or work computer. Or, you can block certain sites for certain hours each day.
4) Disable text and email visibility and sound to avoid phone-related ADD.
5) Have staff make appointments to see you. No open-door policy: it is distracting and demonstrates poor leadership in the realm of focus.
Also, you will be focused and prepared when meetings are scheduled. Open door policies are a nice idea, but create both poor time management and example. There are many superior ways to demonstrate care and engagement as a leader. What if all employees were interrupted for an undetermined amount of time each day? Not a great business strategy!
I literally spend one to four weeks with business owners and executives eliminating and systematizing time stealers when we begin coaching together! Time stealers are a challenge for everyone and must be addressed as they EASILY steal two to six hours from YOU and YOUR staff EVERY SINGLE DAY. Yuck!
3) Fear People procrastinate when they are stuck in fear…Fear of the unknown, of failing, of rejection, of incompetence, of disapproval or even of success at times. Fear is a mega stumbling block to taking action or completing tasks and projects.
What a total drag, right? We let insecurity direct life far too often. It would be quite easy to tell you to “suck it up and push through that fear!” If it were only that simple, we’d all be rid of procrastination by now.
Take Action! I suggest a two-pronged approach to blasting fear-based procrastination! First, get specific about the fears that block you. Often, just naming a fear will allow the monster to shrink enough for you to move forward. What seemed like a mountain was actually just an ant hill disguised by ambiguity. It’s the AMBIGUITY or lack of clarity that stops us every time. Clarity is like a gorgeous, smooth-flowing ride down the river on a sunny, 80-degree day!
Secondly, think in terms of “ONE next step.” The key to busting fear-based procrastination is to simplify. If you need to get your oil changed, the only thing you can do FIRST is locate a place to have your oil changed. Once complete, there is still only ONE next step– call to set and appointment, the next ONE step is to drive there and so on. ALL goals are a continuation of “ONE next step.”
When we’re already afraid or overwhelmed in any way, looking at the big picture can feel paralyzing. Keep it simple to make it big! Invest yourself in just ONE next step at a time.
ADD is sneaky. I personally don’t care about the diagnosis of ADD. In my coaching, we look more at behaviors or collections of behaviors that block success. With a large number of business owners and high performers, behaviors that mimic ADD are extremely common. And procrastination is at or near the top of the list!
If you suspect ADD in your life, DON’T get upset. It’s seriously no biggie and a TOTAL benefit in many ways.
Take Action!If you suspect ADD, I suggest talking with a coach who has a great deal of experience with ADDers as a jumping off point. You can also seek a traditional diagnosis. A great ADD coach will be able to give you dozens of tools to shore up habits, behaviors and challenges (whether they are ADD related or not!) AND help you capitalize on the gold mine that ADD is as well.
Cheers to liberated living!