Stop Thinking About Tomorrow
If you’ve ever put off or delayed a task—especially something urgent—you know what it’s like to procrastinate. Loosely defined as avoiding, deferring, or postponing, occasional procrastination is relatively harmless but left unchecked, it can become habitual. If you routinely struggle to get things done in a timely manner, you know that more than just your work or productivity is at stake. Chronic procrastination can damage your relationships, finances, and even your health, says Dr. Christine Li, clinical psychologist and founder at Procrastination Coach, which helps clients shake the habit. This is where a coach can help. By identifying the root causes of your procrastination habit, you can build a strategy to get yourself back on track.
The first step to positive change is identifying the underlying issues that might be contributing to your habit. Almost everybody procrastinates at some point, and the most common reasons include a lack of interest, skills, or motivation; a fear of failure or fear of success; or a sense of rebellion. Left unidentified or unchallenged, these deep-seated emotions lead to destructive behaviors with real-world consequences.
“Procrastinators tend to get overwhelmed by the pressure they feel from the outside world and the pressure they put on themselves,” Dr. Li says. Overcoming procrastination requires a strategy that both changes behavior and releases that pressure.
Dr. Li shares her top tips.
1. Simplify your life.
2. Learn to communicate effectively, honestly, directly, and in a timely manner.
When we master honest, direct, and timely communication, we avoid misunderstanding, anxiety, and confusion, and at the same time, we honor ourselves and the people around us. Learn how to say “no” as well as “yes.”
3. Master time management, including learning how to conserve and to use small bits of time.
This means setting priorities, sticking to schedules, developing your own personal best practices, and avoiding distractions (I’m looking at you, Facebook). This tip might seem obvious, but procrastination is cumulative. Once you fall out of step with your responsibilities, the consequences compound and can very quickly add up causing anxiety, shame, and emotional paralysis.
4. Change your mindset.
This involves boldly addressing your fears and anxieties and moving forward in your life with a positive, open outlook. With practice, you will be able to see how, for example, your procrastination on a certain project is connected to your fear of failure. This takes some courage—it’s never easy to confront your own shortcomings—but the payoff is considerable. Armed with knowledge about your emotions, you can move forward towards positive change.
Overcoming procrastination does take practice, diligence, and focus, but the good news is that you will begin feeling the benefits of your work almost immediately. “The techniques I recommend work well because they relieve that nasty feeling of pressure and create room for growth, movement, and change instead,” Dr. Li explains.