In this article, I’ll give you 6 tips to overcome procrastination and stop beating yourself up.
But first thing first, I have a confession to make: I did procrastinate the recording of this episode.
It wasn’t intentional but when I realised what happened and what I did or didn’t do in that case, I thought it would be a good example to use throughout this whole episode.
I will use this example to explore the reasons why I did it and to some extent the reasons why we end up procrastinating. I will also use this example to give you some practical tips to try to overcome procrastination.
What procrastination is
As you may know, procrastination is the act of delaying action, of postponing it. I’d like to believe that this is something we all do to some extent, but there might be some people who do it more often than others.
I can’t talk about procrastination without mentioning active procrastination which is a bit different or takes a different form. This is something I’ve been experiencing a lot since I’ve been running my own business.
Procrastination vs. active procrastination
In case you don’t know the difference between procrastination and active procrastination, active procrastination is when you keep yourself busy so you don’t realise that you’re procrastinating. By keeping yourself busy with some tasks, you avoid tackling bigger or more important ones.
Procrastination can affect many different areas of our life such as admin tasks for example. If you have a phobia for admin (just like I do), you most probably have procrastinated on your tax return for example. You may also have procrastinated on your essays and homework when you were younger, doing them at the last minute. You may also postpone calling your family.
It can be professional or personal, there is no limit to it.
As I said in the beginning I will take the recording of this episode as my own example with procrastination and I identified a few reasons behind it.
Procrastination can be a problem
Procrastination becomes a problem when it causes stress, sometimes even anxiety, because we’re postponing something we know we should be doing but we still can’t get to do it.
It doesn’t make much sense when you think about it. Rationally, it would often be easier and quicker to just do this task, but we still don’t do it and we keep thinking about it, especially when we try to fall asleep.
Procrastination triggers guilt of feeling lazy and generally, it opens the door to our negative self-talk.
So instead of beating yourself up, it would be more useful to have a closer look at your situation and why you’re procrastinating.
Behind procrastination, the fear
Often, from what I’ve observed from my coaching clients, is that behind procrastination, there is fear, which can also take many forms: The fear of failing, of not being good enough, of being vulnerable if we need to reach out to someone, you name it.
And in my case, with this episode, I identified that I feared not being good enough, because I’m still wondering whether or not I’m in the right direction with the podcast, the structure of it, the content of it, etc.
Instead of sitting with myself and doing the work to get my answers, I avoided that task and procrastinated.
I also know that this exercise is still new to me, I still need time to record and edit an episode and this puts me off. This aspect is one of the tips I will mention later on.
As the deadline was approaching, you can imagine that my stress level increased, because I set a schedule to publish an episode every two weeks.
I have already skipped one episode taking the excuse of the holiday season, but I know that I used it as an excuse. I also know that I want to share my vision and spread my message, but I can only do that by recording my episode.
6 tips to overcome procrastination
1. Go back to your why
Ask yourself this: Why do I need to do this task? Why is it important to you? And what are the consequences if you don’t do it?
Sometimes we may envision the worst but often we realise we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. Of course, if it’s about your tax return there are real, concrete consequences. However, if you postpone filing your documents or decluttering your room, the consequences are different.
Of course, this may create stress, mental stress, and in that case, it’s worth going back to your why and hopefully, you’ll find the motivation to get started.
2. Chunk your task
I briefly mentioned it earlier, but if you procrastinate about something because it represents a lot of time or a big amount of work in your mind: break it into smaller steps and actions.
That’s what I did with the recording of this episode: one day I recorded the episode, another day I edited it. I also kept in mind the metaphor of eating an elephant. To eat an elephant, you do it one bite at a time.
3. Make space in your calendar
Sometimes this big action takes more time in your head than it actually takes. Whether this is true or not, at least you know you have plenty of time to do it. And don’t schedule anything else. Simply block a slot in your calendar and stay focused. The most difficult part is to get started.
4. Create an ideal environment
Depending on your task, you may need a quiet environment or, on the contrary, an inspiring one where there is life around you. Create an environment where you will enjoy doing the task you’ve been postponing so much.
In my case, I was waiting for having a quiet space, my own space, so I could record without being disturbed.
Extra tip: remove any distractions!
5. Find or define a reward
It’s one of my favorite tips, one I often give to my clients when we work on their goal setting. Something you will gift yourself or treat yourself with once you will be done with your task. It could be picking some extra time for yourself, gifting something, eating something sweet, watching a movie or a series, etc. Anything that says: ‘Well done, you deserve it, I’m proud of you.’
Ironically, I didn’t plan anything for the relief of knowing that this episode is recorded gives me the peace of mind I need. So ‘peace of mind’ is my own reward.
6. Shift your perspective
What makes us procrastinate is also the negative perspective we have about that task. But again, it’s just a thought and we can shift it in a more positive way. It starts with our words, something I also mention quite often. Replace the I have to/I need to/I should with something more empowering that implies that you have a choice.
It could be something like ‘I get to do this/I choose to do that/I decide to do this’ etc.
- I decide to record my podcats episode
- I get to do my tax return
- I choose to reply to my emails
This leads us back to tip 1 ‘Get back to your why’. Go back to the reason why you do what you do, what motivates you in the first place.
How to overcome procrastination
Explore the reasons why you procrastinate before anything else. Then,
- Get back to your why
- Chunk your task
- Make space in your calendar
- Find and define a reward
- Shift your perspective and your thoughts into better, more empowering ones
Stop beating yourself up because it’s not worth it and try to apply these tips when you catch yourself avoiding your to-do.
I hope you’ll find the motivation to do what really matters to you.