Procrastination is one of the biggest momentum killers when it comes to achieving your goals. Should I hit the gym today, or go tomorrow? Should I finish my presentation? Should I say Yes to the party invite? Reply now or later? Should I wear this or wear that? We’re asking ourselves questions like this all day long. The challenge is, questions require answers, which implies decisions, and every decision we make involves two things: action consequence and decision energy. I will speak about both here and give you an exercise to do to help you gain insight into why you might procrastinate and what you can do about it.
It’s useful to explore possible reasons why you may be avoiding doing what needs to get done to achieve a goal, and it may not be the reason you think. I’d like you to do a written exercise to help you do this. Draw two columns. In column 1 write out all the consequences (good and bad) of achieving your goal, and in column 2 write out all the consequences (good and bad) of not achieving it. Now you may be wondering why you would look at bad as well as good consequences. Afterall, if you want a goal and you achieve it, surely it could only be a good thing, right? Well, if procrastination is an issue for you, you might be surprised that there could be a reason for your putting things off. You could be getting something from it. Huh? Let me give you four examples before you do the exercise so this makes more sense to you.
- Imagine for a moment that someone’s goal is to lose weight because they are obese, and they want to be healthier. It’s a good plan and the strategy is fairly straightforward; eat less and move more. So, why procrastinate if it’s beneficial? Well. for every action there is a consequence and with that can come a feeling. If the feeling is one of discomfort or pain, you may very well avoid the action, even if it is ultimately good for you. At a seminar once an attendee told me she had a weight loss goal of 4 stone. She explained that she got 3 stone off but then suddenly, for no obvious reason, started to reverse the process and piled the weight back on, without any motivation to improve. They couldn’t figure out why as there was no medical issue, and it was naturally upsetting. So, I asked them a different question to “Why?” I asked them what the consequences of getting to their goal weight would be. A look of panic came over their face. They explained that someone had commented on how attractive they were as they hit the 3 stone target. They didn’t like the comment because as it turned out, they had been sexually abused years earlier and thought if they were attractive, it might make it happen again. So, they unconsciously made sure to put the weight back on. This made perfect “illogical sense” to them and as we worked on the issue, they no longer feared the consequence of losing weight and they are now healthy.
- Someone wants a loving relationship. The circumstances are right, and they get an opportunity to meet someone really nice, but they keep putting off having a date. One positive consequence could be it works out great and they fall in love, but what if someone got hurt in a previous relationship and feared it happening again?
- Someone smokes and they want to stop. Easy, just don’t put the cigarette in your mouth. Two positives are better health and more income, so why procrastinate? Might it mean you couldn’t fill the lonely time after work or would miss the catch up with friends during a coffee break?
- You have a presentation to submit but you keep putting it off. Might it be that you fear presenting as you don’t think your content is strong enough or you don’t want to be judged?
These are just some examples, but you get the idea. So, fill in both columns and see if there is a driver for your procrastination. If you get stuck, ask yourself the question another way: “What would it mean if I did X?” Write it down. Then ask yourself again, “And what else would it mean?” Write it down. The answer will come to you with an action consequence questioning approach.
Once you have your answers you’ll need to reframe to change your perspective. You will find videos on this in the club members (https://www.donnakennedy.com/join-donnas-club/) Self Discovery Library.
If you wake up in the morning, and you need to ask yourself, “What do I need to do today?” — well, you will procrastinate because it requires energy to think. So, the first thing is to reduce the number of decisions you need to make during a given day by making those decisions ahead of time. For example, have your clothes picked out the night before rather than the morning of. Decide in advance exactly which days of the week you’ll exercise, instead of trying to convince yourself the day of. Decide which part of a project you will do each day instead of taking it all on at once with no direction. Deciding ahead of time will allow you to create good structure and productive habits, which will boost your effectiveness and free up the energy you’ll need to stay focused on doing meaningful actions that will bring you to your goals. You need to approach each action one at a time and importantly, make sure that every action you take is doable.
Think about something you’ve been procrastinating about. Focus on how it makes you feel whenever you think about doing it. Think about the effort involved. Overwhelming, right? Now let’s flip it and chunk it down. Choose to focus on doing one thing you can do right now to move you even the tiniest bit closer to goal completion. Then commit to that action only and do it! When it’s complete do the next action. It will create momentum. With momentum comes enthusiasm and energy to do the next planned action. It gives a sense of direction and drive that will motivate you to get whatever you need to get done—DONE!
Create an action environment.
Create an action environment by removing the cues that trigger procrastination habits in the first place. Remove every possible distraction. If you have a project to do, turn your phone off or put it in another room, so you’re not distracted by notifications. If noise bothers you, find a quiet place ahead of time and you’re more likely to get the task done. If you want to get in shape, make sure your cupboards are not full of chocolates and biscuits. It’s all about creating an environment that supports your actions, not obstruct them. What might you need to change in your environment, so your goals will be easier to achieve? Sometimes the smallest of changes can make a big difference.
Having accountability kills procrastination, so it’s really important. Get an accountability partner to go to the gym with you, someone who expects you to show up for your session. Get a mentor who sets goals with time targets with you (drop me a message if that’s what you’re looking for). Do a joint venture where tasks are divided and you are expected to do your bit. Make your goal public, so you have an incentive to achieve it. There are many ways to create accountability but it’s vital that you put it in place, to stop procrastination.
Reward v Missing out.
Ahead of time decide that you will reward yourself with a,b or c, for achieving the goal you want to achieve, but importantly, you can only get the reward WHEN you achieve your goal. You will miss out on it if you don’t achieve the goal. As you look forward to your prize, the reward center of your brain gets excited and releases a chemical called dopamine, which will motivate you further into action. For example, if I know that I will get a ballgown (I love them!) if I complete a goal, but not until, I have more motivation to achieve it! In fact I WANT IT NOW! What reward would motivate you to achieve your goal?
Life is about feeling fantastic, being productive and making things happen, so it’s worth your while addressing any possible reasons for procrastination. There are so many amazing things for you to do! Download this free ebook to help you further https://donnakennedy.com/#ebook