We all have had our fair share of procrastination (a habitual way of delaying activity that should be done now for later).
Whenever I have a deadline, I always tell myself I would complete the work asap even before deadline but guess what. At the 11th hour I am still on the job. This often comes with guilt.
Procrastination is not laziness. Laziness means you have no intentions whatsoever to get the wor done but with procrastination there is a desire to do the work.
I used to think I was the only one who had issues with procrastinating until I found out there are so many of us dealing with procrastination.
We procrastinate because:
- We are afraid of failing hence wouldn't want to try anything that will portray us as failures.
- We are perfectionists and we want everything to be available or perfect before we start an activity.
- We don't have energy or our energy is low to get the work done.
- We lack focus and are easily distracted.
What you are about to read now has helped me and a few of my friends that have shared this conversation with me.
I have heard people say, to overcome procrastination, set deadline, promise yourself a reward, do the big task first etc. This is not always as easy as it sounds.
What you need to know:
The thing is that many people don't understand that procrastination is a psychological wiring in our brain because our brain naturally runs from difficult task (the brain loves pleasure and detests pain), same way it runs from abstract things and embraces concrete things.
What this means is that the brain will run away from anything it senses pain or difficulty in and move close to what will bring it pleasure and fun.
The brain will also go away from anything that it cannot fully process to the end (abstract). If it is a task it has never done, it quickly senses abstract, blurry or vagueness in it and wouldn't want to go the whole nine yards.
The brain loves monotonous work, work that does not task the brain. That is why the brain will go about doing every other thing but the very work it is supposed to do.
The brain does not like to proceed with anything that will make it appear as a failure. It prefers the simple projects it use to conquer and that project that makes it appear as a winner not a failure. This is a protective mechanism carried out by the brain. Your brain is protecting you from hurt and emotional pain.
These are some of the reasons why we often procrastinate. You need to understand it is more of a brain wiring than it is a personality trait.
Though there are people who procrastinate more than others.
I used to be a chronic procrastinator. I hated it but somehow I felt I couldn't help but procrastinate even after planning to finish the task first I end up rushing it at the 11th hour. I know some people hate themselves because they feel procrastination is a disease that plagues them.
If you fall in here then I am about to share with you what worked for me and I believe will work for you.
I noticed that the projects I procrastinate a lot on are tasks I don't see to the end. That is, those tasks I haven't been able to complete visually( in my mind).
Those projects I just say I will complete but never get around seeing the finishing line.
The thing is that if your mind does not see the project to completion your heart will tell you to pause, your heart will question your strength or ability to complete it.
To bring speed and momentum to perform the task your mind needs to see (visualize) every step of that task.
Breakdown the task to completion
Imagine driving to a destination without a roadmap or direction. You will be frustrated to stop and go back. If you were told there was no direction nor roadmap you may simply decline but with a detailed road map you will quickly set out.
Break down the tasks you need to perform for this project to be done. Every step of the way, you must know the tasks to be done so that your heart is not overwhelmed by the size of the project. That is your road map.
Clarity helps you reduce procrastination.
Visualize the project to completion
Your mind is your battle field. You win in your mind before you win anywhere else. If your mind can't conceive it your heart won't pursue it.
If you have broken down your project into smaller milestones. It is time to sit down and think it through. See all the bends, turns and twists and see how you can overcome them.
Every week sit down with the tasks to be done that week and walk yourself through it.
Fix milestones and timelines for each step of the project.
If the project is a six months project, set your deadline for two weeks before the actual deadline and work backwards. E.g. if the deadline commences from Jan 1st to June 30th then you should work back from June 14th. The rest of the tasks should be broken within five months and two weeks.
Get an accountability partner
Get a partner that will hold you accountable until you follow through with the project or join an accountability group. When making your choice of a partner, it must be someone who knows how to push people to get what they want or someone who has done the work before e.g. a coach or mentor and if you are joining a group ensure they are not groups that send out negative vibes or a group with non-performers who don't inspire you.
When you tell people about your goal there is the likelihood that you wouldn't want to appear like a failure in front of them. You want to be applauded and seen as the performer so it is natural for you to go the extra mile.
Commit to loose something valuable
A friend of mine gives the husband a certain amount of money to hold and if she doesn't complete the project on time the husband takes the money.
She said she gave the husband N100,000 ( approx $300) to hold and since she started doing this she has lost N200,000 ( approx $600). Now she pushes herself to do the work and always gets it done.
Cut down distraction (e.g. Social media and friends)
If you know that social media is your safe haven and you would rather stay on social media that do the actual work. It is high time you deleted whatever app is distracting you.
If it is your friends that are your major distraction then know when to cut down on the time spent with friends so you can achieve what you need accomplished after that you can catch up on gists. Whatever is distracting you needs to be cut off.
Procrastination is a thief of time. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, "You may delay but time will not."
The good news is that you can rewire your brain to go for challenges, to see a project to the end, to do the work needed.
Start putting this into practise and let me know your wins and struggles. I would love to help or hear from you on how you are completing those projects.
Written by Chinonye Ngwobia