Say Goodbye to Procrastination
“The really happy people are those who have broken the chains of procrastination, those who find satisfaction in doing the job at hand. They’re full of eagerness, zest, productivity. You can be, too.” – Norman Vincent Peale
At the beginning of a new year we feel like a fresh start. It’s easy hear this self talk and to set some new year resolutions and then watch the months go by with little change. It’s painful to have resolutions set and not achieved and it’s great to have ambition and new goals to achieve. So how can you move just one thing out of the way and make this year the one you truly achieve the things that mean so much to you? It’s time to say goodbye to procrastination and in the next few paragraphs I will explain what procrastination really might be.
Some time ago I had an executive come to me, exhausted and over the rat race. He described his life as a state of heightened alert, looking for the next problem to extinguish and so busy being on high alert and needing to “fire fight” that he achieved none of what he really wanted. He said it felt like he was procrastinating on the important and non-urgent projects, and was too exhausted dealing with daily reactive behaviour in most areas of his life meaning he had little of what he really wanted. He described wasting energy on keeping apparent imminent threats at bay most of which resulted in nothing except wasting his time. We decided to look closely at what procrastination really is to help him move out of this place.
What is procrastination? The textbook definition is: to put off doing something, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness. To postpone or delay needlessly. What is procrastination really? What I see with people who procrastinate is that they feel that they are under siege by opportunities and tasks. The flip side of procrastination is to focus, and take massive action. To seize something swiftly and eagerly. A person who is exhausted from trying to put out proverbial small fires all day has no energy to focus, take massive action or seize anything swiftly.
Being on high alert has it’s benefits, including a fast response to danger and keeping issues at bay. What this also does is prevents important, non-urgent projects and goals being achieved. The downside is exhaustion. Life is not meant to be lived in an over functioning state of high alert. This is the state that prevents meaningful progress important non-urgent activities. As technology advances we have even more distractions and situations that cause a heightened state of alert that prevents progress on important tasks. Switching to actions that are about seizing the day, acting swiftly and focussing intently without distraction are the gold that is progress and achievement happiness. This behaviour of progress also allows times of rest to gather energy, ready for the massive action that is needed to seize swiftly. This helps us to feel energised, refreshed, purposeful, truly effective and a leader.
The identification of procrastination dates back to the 17th Century and a sermon by a clergyman named Reverend Walker who refers to procrastination in the context of avoidance and delay. Abraham Lincoln is famously quoted saying, “you cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
How can you switch from the behaviour of being under siege and needing to react continually to being able to rest, focus and then swiftly act on the important tasks? Start by looking at all all activities that you feel need your immediate attention as if you are under siege as “options” and “opportunities.” Take the pressure off and instead of feeling overwhelmed by them, take time before acting. Resist reacting and look at ways to slow the process. Next determine what is important, and what you need to do to take massive action in the direction of an important, non-urgent task. Rest first to gather energy and resources. Next focus, plan and then seize the moment by acting.
What if you are still feeling distracted by urgent, unimportant and reactive behaviour? Consider taking the time to rest and clear your mind, and look again at these pressures as being opportunities and not problems needing an immediate solution. Reflect on modelling leaders who rest, plan, focus and then seize the moment and find ways to act in the same manner. Appreciate that what you are experiencing is very common. I see it everyday. Be gentle and kind to yourself and know that you can change and lighten your load.
Back to my executive. He realised that much of what appeared to be a threat never eventuated into anything except wasting his time. He switched off email alerts and decided to read emails twice a day only. Giving himself just 30 minutes each time to do this. He resisted answering his phone continually and gave himself windows to call people during the day. Then he scheduled project time and activity goals to seize the moment. It took lots of discipline and self control in the beginning especially as he was overcoming the physical stress and exhaustion of being reactive all day. He now sleeps better and feels far more productive and confident.
Seeing procrastination from another angle may well have you telling yourself that this year is going to be a good one. Know the feeling of being able to pace yourself, rest and then act. It’s truly a refreshing relief and you deserve it.
Madelaine Cohen Author
Lipstick Learning is an initiative of Sydney based business leader, Certified NLP Trainer (ABNLP), entrepreneur and Master NLP Practitioner Madelaine Cohen. Sharing information and joining forces with people who choose to lead. Madelaine has more than two decades of inspiration from her businesses in consumer products, sports marketing, executive coaching and healthcare. She takes a leading role in mentoring executives and training business leadership in large and small enterprises. Why? Inspire people to lead and together we can create lifetimes of health and happiness. To find out how you can lead with even more authenticity and ease, contact Madelaine through Lipstick Learning. Madelaine welcomes connection and networking so if you have something to ask or share, go for it.