As a Personal Life Coach, I’ve noticed procrastination is one of the many topics of personal transformation that comes up more often than not with my clients. It’s subject with which I’m all too familiar and I can recognize the patterns and feelings associated with it in a flash. Procrastination is an unfortunate affliction that plagues far too many of us.
Somewhere along the lines of growing up we learn, “Ah, I’ll just do it later.” When we say these words enough, it becomes a pattern of behaviour — and for some of us it even results in a crippling attitude towards life, creating many challenges as we grow older. Procrastination often becomes a source of tremendous shame and guilt. It weighs very heavily on our consciences and hearts when we know something needs to be done, yet we can’t seem to bring ourselves to do it.
Procrastination is disempowering, eating away at our sense of self worth and essentially perpetuating a vicious cycle of more procrastination. As a result, we begin to feel bad about ourselves and to seek out ways to numb those feelings of shame and guilt with distractions such as TV, internet, social media. Some people even turn to drugs and alcohol, and a particular few will end up having the cleanest house on the entire block before doing the task they are so desperately trying to avoid. Ya, you know who you are! 🙂
Growing up, my own personal struggle with procrastination became a serious problem. Although meeting assigned deadlines was never really an issue, I would however always seem to wait until the very last minute before I even began whatever project I was working on, creating way more stress for myself than need be. I would allow the many distractions in life to consume my attention, resulting in the neglect of what needed to be done. I would rush through writing assignments for school and university. Even as a Visual Arts student I would rush through my paintings and drawings, giving myself just enough time to have something to hand in to my professors on time. I rarely went above and beyond in anything I did… just the bare minimum, really. I had transformed the creative process into a rush job.
Procrastination had become my “art”. Oh, and I was very good at it. I still am when I allow myself to be, but I live more consciously now, very much aware of my tendency to leave things to the last minute and of the tremendous guilt I feel when I give into procrastination. I know all about feelings of guilt and the vicious cycle of procrastination first hand.
Fortunately, over the years I’ve learned a few tricks and have created more productive habits for myself. Although I am now better equipped to work through my moments of, “Ah, I’ll just do it later”, procrastination has been a part of me for so long that sometimes it really takes a concerted effort to tackle it head on and do things differently. With life and its countless distractions it’s far too easy to fall back into old unproductive patterns.
If there is one thing I have learned (and which I lovingly share with my clients) it is that we are all works in progress and it takes time and practice to apply new ways of being in order for them to be fully integrated into who we choose to be. It is also crucial to be aware of our negative inner dialog and to be patient and gentle with ourselves during our process — to break the vicious cycle of guilt and shame self-judgment creates.
There are two main elements in successfully tackling procrastination: timelines and accountability. Setting goals, establishing timelines for completion — also known as deadlines — and having someone reliable and supportive to be accountable to are the most effective strategies in encouraging our lackluster motivation to get things done. However, it must all begin with intention: being clear on exactly what it is we want to accomplish and by when aids in relieving that feeling of being overwhelmed if we happen to have too many things on our plate.
When embarking on making positive changes in our lives — in this case with regards to procrastination — asking ourselves why these changes are important to us can be extremely helpful in facilitating our shift out of unhealthy patterns. It brings value and meaning to our process rather than the guilt and shame we are so accustomed to.
Begin by making a list of everything you want and have to do. Then write a statement of intention for yourself and the person or coach you have enlisted and to whom you will be accountable. Using your list, set realistic goals and break them down into smaller and specific doable tasks. Be sure to take on ONLY what is realistic for you to handle given your chosen deadline. The idea is to get things done in a timely and effective way to positively shift out of procrastination, not to overwhelm yourself back into it.
Whenever possible, make your tasks meaningful. Doing this increases your chances of success and helps make the process more enjoyable and fulfilling. Be honest with yourself and eliminate any and all tasks you have absolutely no intention of doing. This will help keep that nasty inner critic at bay and ensure that you are in a much better position to move forward in a positive way.
You may want to sit with your “support” partner and negotiate a realistic timeline to get each task done. This then becomes a commitment to yourself and your partner. Your partner’s job is to check in and see how things are going; to give you support and encouragement when you have the urge to procrastinate; and most importantly, to high five you when you’re moving forward and making it happen.
Arrange to meet up for tea or coffee to share your progress and report setbacks, if any. I find that a once-a-week meeting helps to create productive momentum. In moments of wavering commitment, call up your partner for a motivational boost. It’s important to remember that this will take time and practice. So celebrate every step forward, however small, and remember to be patient and gentle with yourself if you happen to give into procrastination. You may even want to consider giving yourself some kind of reward for a job well done as an added incentive, if you feel that would be an effective motivator.
Be sure to find someone you trust and will enjoy working with, preferably someone who can remain objective in a positive and supportive way. For this reason, some of you may choose to hire a life coach rather than ask a friend or family member. Or perhaps you happen to have a friend who also has a procrastination problem that they want to change as well and could benefit from working together by mutually being accountable to each other.
Whatever approach you choose, tackling procrastination can appear daunting at first. Cultivating new habits can definitely seem forced and unnatural; however, the outcome can be most rewarding and empowering. We not only benefit from actually getting things done in a timely and effective fashion, we begin to feel better about ourselves in the process. A win/win situation, which inevitably creates a positive ripple effect, transforming a once-vicious cycle into one of self-empowerment, giving our lives more meaning and a wonderful sense of fulfillment.
Here is a quote by Robert Collier that best expresses the last sentiment. I invite you to keep it in mind: “Your chances of success in any undertaking can always be measured by your belief in yourself.”
Happy soul searching!
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