“Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy.” – Wayne Gretzky.
When we have so much to do and so little time, we tend to put less desirable tasks at the bottom of the to-do list. No matter what those less desirable tasks are, they’re no fun, often take a lot of work, and we aren’t always sure how to approach them, so we don’t want to do them (or we just decide that procrastinating on Pinterest is a much better option). But, putting off these urgent, less desirable tasks doesn’t mean we don’t have to complete them anymore. They still need to get done – they’re important. So, instead the tasks are left to be done at the last minute, further adding to the stress of life.
“The last minute is characterized by intense activity motivated entirely by fear. Once the cause for fear is gone (the consequence we’re trying desperately to avoid) the motivation disappears and activity ceases. In this way, we allow procrastination to systematically condition us to believe that the only time we get things done is when we’re full of fear. Over time, we buy what procrastination is selling: the belief that we can be truly motivated only by fear.” – The Cure for the Perfect Life
Living in constant fear and worry (stress) starts to put your body in a flight or fight state. It’s part of survival. Your adrenaline starts pumping, so you are able to react. But, afterward you feel tired and sick. At the same time as your body is in the flight or fight response, it’s also causing your body to break down. The only way to rejuvenate your body and repair it, is to relax – something that is hard to do in a life where you are living with no margins.
With no margins, comes stress. With stress, comes putting things off to the last minute. With the last minute, comes fear. We are living in fear. And the fear needs to stop.
What can we do to eliminate the fear?
- Identify what is causing you to procrastinate. Most people procrastinate because they feel they’re not enough. They lack confidence in the their ability to do the task, so they put it off. Instead, aim for learning what you need to be equipped to do the task before you tackle it. Then dive in. This way, you are setting yourself up for success (seems to be becoming a theme of ours) and eliminating the fear of failing.
- Break the task into steps. When faced with a big task/project, people can get overwhelmed causing procrastination. They take one look at it and don’t know where to start. Instead, take it one step at a time. Break the big task into a handful of small steps. Then you can focus on completing the project one step at a time because any amount of progress is still progress. Instead of focusing on one huge task, you are focusing on the steps it takes to complete the project (the end goal).
- Identify your strengths. Identify what you are great at and what you are not. Whatever your weakness may be, find someone who is great at it and become a dynamic duo. Tackle the project together. Delegate the steps you are not great at to your teammate who is. Doing this will allow margins in your schedule. If a mistake is made, you have time to correct it because you are not doing the project by yourself. There will be some instances where projects can’t be done as a team. If this is the case, still identify your strengths and weaknesses. Find someone who is great at your weaknesses and ask for advice (how would s/he complete the step). Then use that advice to complete the step you are struggling with. It’s great to have an accountability partner to motivate you and help you mentally stay up to the task at hand!
- Block out distraction-free time. If your phone starts ringing off the hook at 8 am and you’re tied up from then on out, waking up earlier to get things done may be what’s best to complete a project. Getting those few hours in before the chaos begins is necessary to your productivity because you need to create time in your schedule where you have complete control of what happens. Time to be free of distractions. Time to have complete focus. Leaving it until the end of the day (not good for procrastinators), will allow room for the “I’m-tired-I’ll-do-it-tomorrow” excuse. If it’s important, do it first thing.
- Setup a reward system. Once the task/project is complete, reward yourself with something you enjoy. Heck! You just completed something you were dreading. So, why not? Go buy yourself a giant cookie or that cardigan you’ve been eye-balling. You deserve it. Eventually, you will look forward to big tasks because you know the end result is a special treat for a job well done.
Using these tips will eliminate the fear of failing at a big task/project so that you can get more done without the stress. To summarize, you will be prepared to start a task, tackle it in smaller, more attainable steps, know your strengths, get it done first thing, and reward yourself when it’s all said and done. No more fear. No more procrastination.