We’ve literally all been there. Up against the proverbial wall, completely and utterly unmotivated to do the one thing on your list that you must do. Or rather, should have done yesterday. Procrastination has taken hold and you need to figure out to push through. Pronto.
Procrastination is detrimental on a number of levels. Dianne Tice and Roy Baumeister, researchers at Case Western Reserve University, found that people who procrastinate experience more cumulative stress, a lower quality of performance and poorer health.
Who thought that a little bit of delay and hesitation could lead to all of that?
Additional studies conducted by Tice and Joseph Ferrari ultimately concluded that procrastination is a self-defeating behavior. Academic researcher Timothy Pychyl of Carleton University, in Canada describes procrastination as “the gap between intention and action.”
Procrastination ultimately reveals our inability to self-regulate effectively. Self-regulation can be enhanced through improved focus and mindfulness. Pychyl and his research group have discovered clear evidence of the linkage between mindfulness and reduced procrastination.
If we have a non-judgment awareness of our specific efforts to delay progress, we can be more proactive about changing course to take action.
So, when you find yourself stuck in the veritable ditch that is procrastination, consider these 4 approaches as a means to get through:
1) Decode the barrier
What is it about the task that you need to accomplish that motivates a sour response? What is the deeper issue that holds you back from making progress? Pychyl refers to the choice to forego the potential for negative emotion (by not doing what we know we need to do) as the ‘avoidant coping response.’ If you can determine exactly what you are working so hard to avoid, you can make a more purposeful, rational assessment of the blockade you need to overcome.
2) Develop a plan
Identify the incremental steps that you can execute to finish the task. Plan your work and work your plan. As the famous question asks “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer is “One bite at a time.” Break the task down into smaller steps that you can more readily digest — see what I just did there?
3) Tackle the hard stuff first
Take on the most challenging, fear-inspiring, anxiety-producing part of the task first. And yes, I know – This advice sounds incredibly painful, but attacking some of the most intimidating aspects of your major to-do will diffuse the emotion right out of the gate and build your confidence as you move forward.
What is the one thing that you can do to get started right now? Sometimes it just comes down to initiating the task, so get going by any means necessary. Our attitudes can shift and we stand to gain momentum once we are in the midst of the very thing that we tried so hard to avoid. Even the smallest step can move you forward and progress is the name of the game when it comes to defeating procrastination.
Procrastination is a habitual, learned behavior that we can train ourselves to overcome. The next time that you’re on the edge of a deadline, honestly ask yourself: How is this working out for me? You can make different choices the next time around.
Engineer Your Bliss Challenge: Think about a task that you are procrastinating about and take explicit action to move forward anyway.
What strategies have you used in the past to manage procrastination? Share your comments below.
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