Procrastination vs motivation is a common theme that my clients want to work with me on. It seems to stem from several drivers but commonly from feelings of being overwhelmed, low self confidence, fear and lack of motivation.
Feeling overwhelmed may well be because there are physically too many things to do on your list; alternatively, when we are emotionally low or anxious we tend to over perceive the things we must/need to do, including the things we could or would like to do ("like" in a work context being the things others wouldn't normally expect, but are there purely because of your own personal high standards).
When stressed, anxious or overwhelmed we also tend to find it more difficult to delegate or ditch certain jobs that in other circumstances we would be more relaxed about doing so. Often you will hear yourself saying "it's quicker to do myself" and being very sure about this every time. However, think back to the times you have heard other people say this, did you all aways agree? Probably not. It's hard to see the wood for the trees sometimes and that's when it's time to recognise if you are no longer challenging yourself constructively you might need a little help.
The first top tip for procrastination for being overwhelmed is using microsteps. By making mini deals with yourself to not go to the gym for a hour after a late day at the office, but just go to the gym with the aim of having a drink and chill out in the cafe for example. Then once you are there having a water, you might think to yourself I could get changed, then you could decide am I staying or going home....
... Well done you are now at the gym and changed (hypothetically), you feel you could do five minutes on your favourite piece of equipment while listening to your favourite music or watching tv programme... After five minutes you make another deal are you going home or doing a little bit more? Using this method of microsteps, concentrating on just one small thing at a time you slowly get going on your list. Slowly is much better than not at all and you will be surprised how quickly you pick up the pace once you are on a roll.
Procrastination can sometimes be a result of low or lack of self confidence, both topics are covered in my wellbeing workshop starting in September at Keynsham ( more details at http://www.hypnotherapybathbristol.co.uk/#!group-workshops/ctxr ). Read on for low confidence procrastination tip No.2
Sometimes you can go through life telling yourself and other people "I'm not very good at that". The trouble is the more you do, the more you believe it, the more you probably avoid it, the less you do it the less practiced and confident you are about it. It becomes self fulfilling and an increasing gap in your actual ability/skill verses your perception. You will also be very good at spotting those occasions that support this negative belief.
Maybe it's something you can work around, but what if you didn't have that belief, what would you be able to do? What difference would it make to your life? What are the exceptions, when you do well at it? And before you jump in and thoughtlessly tell yourself there are no exceptions... stop, there will probably be more than you realise, but other people can see them so much easier because they do not hold the same negative filter. Maybe it's spelling or maths? But do you buy things from a shop? if so how do you know what it is you are buying and how much you need, you need to be able to read and spell to work out if the product right for you. In fact you are reading this mammoth blog post (well done, nearly there)! How do you know if you have enough cash or money in the bank, if you can't do maths? And for those of you overdrawn/in debt and saying well I don't that's why, is it because you can't work out the price or because of a different underlying reason such as a compulsion to buy, or life event that is temporarily effecting finances rather than not knowing if you have enough money in your pocket?
Either way once we have trained our thoughts about ourselves to be one way, if we want to change a negative self belief we have to practice and retrain our brains to think the other way. Then we can regain our confidence. It might be that you cannot bring yourself to do something straight away, but but identifying the exceptions and expanding on these a little bit each time, consciously searching for positive reinforcement of the new way you want to be, this will help start you going in the right direction. You should find it becomes less about not wanting to show yourself up or your lack of ability and more about what you could be pleased about having a go at. You may even surprise yourself!
What small thing would you be pleased about trying to do today?
The third common driver of procrastination is fear. Fear of showing yourself up, failure, success, not getting it perfect. Fear is a powerful instinct designed to help save us in the past from physical dangers, not handing in a report. But in today's society people will link that report to their job, job to money, money to food and some where to live. The flight/fight part of our brains is excellent at catastrophising the worst possible outcomes. Not only do we imagine the worst, either consciously or subconsciously, but we keep reminding ourselves of it, escalating the pressure on ourselves. If we do manage to hand in the report we might have foreseen ourselves being told off, embarrassed, failing or loosing our job over as a consequence 50 times!
What we need to do is start visualising the positive outcomes and things that will happen as a result of handing in the report, in as much detail as possible, thinking about how we will feel as a result.
Visualisation techniques will also help with lack of motivation but what you also need to do, is identify a reason why doing that thing is important for you to do in the first place. It might be the topic is dull, task too easy but in some way if you are struggling with motivation it's because it doesn't align to you key personal drivers.
Our brain's dislike conflict, that's why smokers will have a more important reason to them to smoke, or dismiss the reasons why they should quit, or quit at the moment. Our brains seek out supportive evidence to justify our current templates/schemes about ourselves. You can examine your personal rationale/drivers in two main ways.
First you could examine all the different elements and events in your life to try and identify what the causes are and why, ie discover what you don't want/like in the past- yes that is likely to take a while though.
Or, look at what it is that you do want in the future, then once you are clear on what you do want and like, link any tasks you must do back to how it fits in with these, or recognise the reason you thought you had to do this perhaps isn't as important to do as you originally thought - please note that with some tasks like filling in your tax returns, you may need a combination of some or all of these tips! For example you will need to be seeing this as an important link for doing the job you love and being self employed which maybe important to you, or you might discover through this self reflection and visualisation that you can make more money using the time seeing clients and paying someone else to do the taxes. You may want to remind yourself of times when you or others have done something similar and create microsteps to get there. Many people find putting a deadline to the task helps a lot.
My final top tip is to keep a quick list of all the little time wasting jobs that you commonly do before getting to the task you should be doing. For example emails, facebook, twitter, blogs, washing, snacks.... These then become "the banned list" until you've got at least 30-40 minutes into the priority task. I find personally that is a great motivator for me and keeps me focused.
The important thing is that whatever techniques you use they need to be things that are right for you and the most likely source of good advice for you is... You.
You can look at what others do for inspiration, you might want to try different things but don't be afraid to adapt methods so it works for you and have confidence that the more you know you can beat procrastination when you want to, the easier it gets!
Wishing you lots of future productive conquests and let me know what works for you so we can have some more inspirational ideas to share below.