Procrastination: How is it costing you?
I’ve always liked to think of myself as a “do it now” sort of person. But over the last week I’ve realized that actually, I’m sometimes use “busy-ness” as an excuse not to do the things I know I really should. Not the little things (like cleaning out my kitchen drawers of accumulated crap), but the bigger things… like putting together proposals to run corporate workshops, offering a group coaching course, building an online Courage Club… stuff that will require more time, more commitment, and involve a bigger risk of failure.
So it got me thinking about this whole subject of procrastination and in a quick mini-survey I quickly realized that I am among good company. Perhaps even yours! 😉 In fact I think it’s something everyone does from time to time. Sometimes it’s mundane stuff like filing taxes. But more often it’s the bigger stuff. Like ending a relationship that’s dragging us down, beginning the process of pursuing a more rewarding career path, getting back into shape, or to pursuing a long held dream.
Philosopher William James once wrote, “Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an unfulfilled goal.” Of course people come up with all sorts of creative reasons why now just isn’t the right time. Too busy. Too broke. Too stressed. Economy too unstable. Too risky. Too inexperienced. Too old. Too young. Too disruptive. Sometimes those reasons are valid. But more often, they are simply excuses for avoiding the discomfort inherent in creating change in our lives, even change for the better, and confronting our fear of failing in the process.
Delay is increasingly expensive
While at the surface procrastination often looks like laziness, at the heart of it lies fear. Fear of failing, fear of success, fear of rejection or fear of our inability to have what we truly want. And so our fear’s drive us to hang on to the hope that if we procrastinate long enough, our misgivings about our ability to achieve what we want will magically evaporate to be replaced with a newfound sense of clarity about the steps we need to take, courage to take them, and confidence in our ability to overcome any obstacles we may meet along the way.
Unfortunately, the reverse is generally true. As the days roll steadily by, our fears grow larger, not smaller until they eventually lead to a burial ground for unfulfilled dreams and untapped potential. All the time, the knowledge that we are whiling away our precious life waiting for the planets to perfectly align before we take our first step forward pulls heavier on our hearts and minds. We are loath to admit it, but in putting off until tomorrow what we can do today (the word procrastinate come from the Latin pro, meaning “forward,” and cras, meaning “tomorrow”) we are selling out on ourselves and all that we can be. And one way or another, it is costing us. Not only can it cost us in our finances, careers, relationships and physical health, but it costs us our peace of mind and the opportunity of experiencing a far deeper sense of personal fulfillment.
Life rewards action. Nothing great has ever been accomplished without it. Nothing ever will be. So if you are tired of procrastinating, make the decision to choose at least one of the 7 strategies below (the more the better!) to help you step forward in action and making tomorrow one that is even more rewarding than today. Delay is increasingly expensive.
7 Strategies for Overcoming Procrastination
Before you go further, first determine whether what you are procrastinating about is something that is actually aligned with your most important values. See where it lies on the adjacent diagram. If you decide it’s actually not that important to you (i.e. the consequences of doing it are low), then do yourself a favor and take it off your list. If it is, then read on:
1. Write down your goal and how you will feel when you achieve it. Visualize yourself having achieved it. Try to imagine the emotions you will feel once you have achieved it.
2. Set a deadline. A goal without a deadline can be put off indefinitely. “Someday” is not a day of the week.
3. Write down how you will feel a year from now if you continue to procrastinate. Get really present to the cost of continued inaction. Remember, if nothing changes, nothing changes!
4. Break the goal into small pieces – if the whole seems too big to tackle, break it into manageable bite-size pieces. Remember that you don’t have to know every step of the way; just the next few steps immediately ahead.
5. Set up a reward system – make it commensurate with the task. An afternoon cleaning out your office or signing up to a fitness program maybe worth dinner out, while writing a business plan or running a 5K fun run might warrant an entire weekend away!
6. Create accountability – Enlist a support team, an accountability partner or just a plain old “nag-buddy”. Ask them to check in on you every week to make sure staying on track (and to give you a hard time if you have veered off the rails).
7. Take the first step forward today. Yes, do something as soon as you can (before you come up with another excuse!) The longer you delay the harder it will be to step into action. A Chinese proverb “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” So just take it… forward momentum is everything!
Now off to clean out those kitchen drawers!
“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” – Mother Teresa