You will have been putting off something that you know really needs to be done.
Perhaps it's cleaning your house, or even doing a task in your job, such as preparing an important report. Whatever the thing is, you've been meaning to do it for days (or weeks) but haven't actually got down to doing it. And each day that passes like this makes it harder and harder because there's always something else niggling at the back of your mind too – worrying about when exactly you'll get around to completing the task. It becomes a vicious cycle - every time you think about how much still needs doing, you put off starting again. You may try making excuses for yourself by saying things like: "I'll do it this afternoon," or "First, I need to finish up on a few more emails."
It may have seemed like an easy task when you first thought about doing it – after all, how hard can it be? But then something came up that kept getting in the way, maybe one of those tasks you've been putting off for ages. So finally you made yourself sit down and start working on the thing. After a little while you find there's much more to do than you expected, and setting yourself back to square one just doesn't seem worth it. This cycle of procrastination - starting something then giving up before completing it is where life gets stuck; where your mind becomes distracted by perfectionism and analysis paralysis (fear of making bad decisions), and you become afraid to take action.
Why we procrastinate The reason for this is that our brain's fear center has hijacked the decision-making process, and will only let us make a choice once it's calculated an acceptable level of risk. It looks at what's on your 'to do' list (which now includes far more than when you started) and starts to feel overwhelmed by all those tasks still left undone. And it doesn't know how long these things are going to take so each project seems like a massive undertaking. So instead of doing any one thing, it does nothing – there is simply too much to get through, and no way of estimating what would be the best way to tackle it. It doesn't even matter if you narrow your focus down to one project, because the fear center is always looking at the big picture. That means that instead of making progress on what needs doing, you are stuck - unable to finish anything or move forward with your life. We do this because to our brain, starting a new job or undertaking a new hobby feels like too much of a risk so we put it off in favor of sticking with what's familiar and safe – however unfulfilling that has become for us in the long term.
So how can we make our brain start trusting us again?
The best way to overcome procrastination is by taking small steps towards achieving goals that feel big, scary and overwhelming. It's only when you start making progress on those goals that your brain will begin to trust that it can feel safe putting effort into reaching for the bigger things.
If you take action towards even a small part of what needs doing, then your fear-center will start to believe that maybe there is some hope in achieving the larger goal after all. So now you'll be able to get back into a productive mindset, rather than allowing yourself to slip back into your old familiar patterns of procrastination.
Taking Action When Your Brain Gets Stuck In Procrastination Cycles: 5 Tips
1) Break down big tasks into manageable chunks This strategy has been shown by psychologists who have studied procrastination (like Dr. Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Equation ) to be the most effective way to overcome this common issue. Just take a step back from your problem and break down what needs doing into a series of smaller tasks that you can manage – even if they're 'baby steps' as long as they help you make progress in some way.
2) Start with something that feels easy Next put your attention onto the easiest or least stressful thing on your list and just get started with it immediately no matter how small an amount of work it is. This will then enable you to create momentum for yourself – the confidence which will allow you to tackle bigger and more complex tasks later on when you are feeling better about yourself.
3) Focus on the progress you are making As you move forward through small tasks, remind yourself that this is not about getting it perfect but just finding a way to move things forward. This mindset of being able to accept and tolerate imperfection will help your brain to stop stressing over its inability to predict the future with absolute confidence.
4) Put off worrying about what could go wrong until later It may seem counter-intuitive, but doing nothing is also an option if you are in danger of letting fear overwhelm your decision-making process. So do whatever works for you in order to keep yourself from focusing too much on potential failure or rejection – such as watching TV or going outside for some fresh air.
5) Use positive self-talk If your inner dialogue is convincing you that "you're never going to achieve this" then it's time to start talking back! How can you change the way you talk about yourself and your abilities? What would be a more positive belief for your brain to hold on to instead of the negative one? The answers may not come easily at first, but with practice they will become easier to remember.
With all of these tips in mind, here are some practical steps that you can take towards solving your procrastination issues:
1) Go through everything which needs doing, breaking each task down into smaller chunks – something that you feel confident about achieving.
2) Begin working towards those goals bit by bit – breaking them down as much as possible into manageable steps.
Recently I purchased The Bullet Journal Method and started a journal and it's been helping me overcome my own procrastination. I've never been the type to write in a journal but I feel like it's helping me reflect on what important to me, it get's me started and know that if I see what needs doing and has been done, more will get accomplished.
We know that there are 1000's of ways to do something but the decision to start and follow through with something is 100% in your control. Learn about what makes you tick and how you can be more productive in all areas of your life.
What other tips do you use to overcome procrastination? Let me know and share this with those who could use a little prod in the right direction! Have a lovely day and keep striving for greatness!