Your procrastination habits may seem to be very deep rooted and, indeed, they probably are. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be changed. Forget everything you have ever been told about laziness, tardiness, lack of application and short attention span; procrastination is about how we think.
Your procrastination habits may seem to be very deep rooted and, indeed, they probably are. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be changed. Forget everything you have ever been told about laziness, tardiness, lack of application and short attention span; procrastination is about how we think. More specifically, it is about how we allow certain thoughts to morph into beliefs. If we are serial procrastinators then we will have some underlying beliefs that are getting in the way of action.
RIGHT BELIEF: WRONG PLACE Here are four common beliefs that lead to procrastination. They may sound innocuous or even admirable and in some contexts, they may even be useful. But they can just as easily lead to paralysis. A sure-fire way to get more time is to challenge the belief.
1.PERFECTION It sounds like this:
‘It must be perfect.’
‘I must do it perfectly.’
‘It needs to be right.’
Very little in this world is perfect and in most cases it’s hard to know exactly what ‘doing it properly’ would look like. If we’re confident that we can get it right from the outset then it can’t be very challenging. Anyway, a partial solution may be closer to what’s needed.
2. CERTAINTY It sounds like this:
‘I must make sure I know all about this before I start.’
‘I want to know what the outcome is going to be before I begin.’
‘I need to know exactly what will be expected of me before I commit.’
Here our intolerance for ambiguity stops us from taking action. We feel as though we will be exposed or that people may discover that we are impostors and we decide that it is safer to do nothing. Sometimes we try to get more information but with this belief, it is unlikely that it will ever be enough. If everyone thought like this, there’d be no Edisons, Picassos, Gorbachevs or Paul Mertons; and not many books, films or new medicines either. If you need to play it safe, don’t expect a place in the history books.
3. ASSISTANCE It sounds like this:
‘I need a hand.’
‘Someone should help me out.’
‘I must get some support.’
Do you feel you need to get a second opinion before you start on something? Some of us feel the need to test the water, to collaborate, consult or get advice. Sometimes this may be the smart thing to do, say, when we are doing something that requires specialist expertise. But, let’s be honest, most tasks don’t. Our advice hunting is a substitute for action. We may even be hoping that the people from whom we seek advice will actually do the work for us.
Rather like a child asking for help with his or her homework, we’re looking for someone better equipped than us to take on the task.
4. IMMUNITY FROM FAILURE It sounds like this:‘I must not fail.’‘I mustn’t mess this up.’‘If this goes wrong, I’m a failure.’ The feeling that because we are likely to fail we should not begin. And so not starting provides us with immunity from failure. Waiving this is a big step but so are the potential rewards.
And if it doesn’t work out this time, the worst scenario, once we’ve wiped the egg off our face is that we’ve learnt a lot. For resilient people, failure is the seed of future success.
I discovered executive and personal coaching as a profession quite by accident. I worked in an investment company in London - in the grey zone with no room for professional development, and felt ready to experience a change. Someone left a Protégé Programme Leaflet in a block of apartments where I lived.
For once I followed my heart. Initially this meant relocating from South Africa to England to set up home with my soon to be husband. However the experience of building a very new and different life, at a time when most people are comfortably settled into a rhythm of life heading towards retirement, soon became a journey that changed more than my marital status. My South African career had been tough but rewarding.