There’s one thing in this world that is more precious than anything. It is more precious than any jewels or riches, it is more precious than any achievement, or even experience. That thing is time. Procrastination takes your time and throws it in the bin.
Time is something that is always decreasing. From the moment you are born, you are always running out of time. You are always racing to beat the clock when you have things to do, work to be done, and experiences to be had.
The feeling of time escaping like water through a colander can become quite overwhelming. We tend to lean on things that give us comfort when we feel overwhelmed, then we label that as procrastination.
Ancient spirits of evil, transform this useful time into procrastination
Procrastination is not the evil monstrosity that people claim to be.
Yes, wasting time is not ideal. However, when you do procrastinate, it is nearly always a sign that something else is going on behind the scenes. It may not even be something that you’re consciously aware of. But there is a reason that you procrastinate and is not necessarily because you can’t be bothered to do the work (or whatever the “thing” is that you need to do)
I feel it was necessary to make that point about not being bothered to do the work because it is unbelievably common for people to berate themselves and call themselves lazy when they end up procrastinating.
The evil isn’t procrastination, it is the narrative you feed yourself because of it
All that self-deprecating talk does is slow you down further. Not only that, but it also prevents you from investigating why you feel that you need a distraction.
The potential reasons for procrastination are almost infinite but, they are usually not too difficult to discover.
Last week I had some admin tasks to take care of. It wasn’t anything particularly complex. I just had some behind the scenes stuff to take care of. I had previously prepared everything so that I could just get on and do it.
Drowning in a sea of minor inconvenience
For a moment, I sat in front of my list of things that I needed to do. A list that seemed to grow before my eyes. It was a list of small and minor tasks but, there were quite a few of them and looking at the list made me feel like I was drowning.
For context, I hate doing admin there is nothing more boring to me than doing administrative tasks. There’s a reason I usually pay someone else to do it. In this particular instance, it wasn’t something that I could get someone else to sort out because I would have had to have provided them with all the information anyway. So it wouldn’t have saved me any time whatsoever.
Whipping up a storm of procrastination
After sitting and looking at my list, and feeling my heart sink at the prospect of doing boring admin tasks, I found myself doing scrolling through Facebook and Twitter. I was engaging in silly posts on social media and generally just doing anything and everything other than what I needed.
After an hour or so had passed, I had another wave of panic hit me. A wave of panic came as a result of being an hour or so behind schedule. A schedule that I set, despite not having any sort of real deadline to meet.
Did this encourage me to put social media down? Yes. Did it encourage me to do the work? No. Instead of getting on with it, I made some food.
The real cost of procrastination
Another hour passed. Now I was two hours behind schedule and I was really panicking at this point. There were plenty of other, more interesting things I could have been doing with my time but instead, I am now two hours behind.
I had spent two hours putting off something that only took one hour. In fact, it took less than 1 hour because I also took a coffee break in the middle. If I had approached him with a more positive mindset, it probably wouldn’t have even taken me as long as it did.
Look inwards, listen to your thoughts, what do they tell you?
In that situation, my procrastination was a result of the narrative that I was delivering to myself. I was telling myself how much I hate doing admin. I was telling myself that I should have done these things already and not left them this long as it is. I was telling myself that admin should be easy. So why am I making it difficult? I’m so stupid for making it difficult
As I said before, I hate admin.
Except that’s not quite true. I don’t hate it, I just don’t enjoy it. And those are not the same thing. I find it boring. Boredom is a feeling that I struggle to cope with.
Boredom makes me anxious. When I become anxious, I find myself becoming fixated on small minor things that don’t matter or getting sucked in by distractions (hello Twitter)
The depth of the problem isn’t that deep but the effect is vast
The admin tasks are boring, boredom makes me anxious, anxiety makes me obsess and get completely absorbed by distractions, which in itself becomes procrastination.
The act of procrastination isn’t the problem, it is just a symptom of it. The trouble is, that the act of procrastination injects an element of chaos into your life. It leaves things that you could, and should, control down to chance. That does not ever serve anybody well.
The cause of the problem is usually not that deep but the impact that procrastination has on your life is vast.
Change the narrative and own your time
For many, the real reason we procrastinate is down to the way we make ourselves feel when we think and talk to ourselves.
Do you tell yourself that you can’t do the task ahead of you? Or, maybe you tell yourself that even if you do it, it won’t make any difference or be worth the effort? How about that you can’t do it as well as someone you admire?
None of those questions or comments will ever do you any good. When you internalise thoughts like that, it has a destructive effect on other areas of your life. Your thoughts can be healing or they can damage, whichever it ends up being is up to you.
The more positively you speak to and about yourself, the less resistance there is between you and your best work. We, as human beings, are driven by emotions. There is no more scathing a comment than the ones we throw at ourselves.
The result of all that negativity is you giving up control of how you spend YOUR time.
Procrastination isn’t the devil’s work, internalising negativity is.
The result of taking control of your internal narrative is vastly more complex and rewarding than just having more time. You will have more energy, drive, ambition, and creativity. You will find yourself having more clarity of thought, better ideas, and healthier relationships with the people in your world.
If internalising negativity is poison for your mind, then reinforcing positivity is the antidote.
Looking for solutions
When you have identified the real cause of your procrastination you can start to look for solutions.
For me and my admin woes, my solution was to take a break in the middle for a coffee and a few minutes away from the thing that was causing me immeasurable boredom.
The solutions you need will be unique to the problem at hand, but they are there. It is your duty as a person who wants to kick procrastination to the curb to seek out and implement those solutions.
Can you outsource or delegate it?
The thing that you are putting off while you procrastinate, can someone else do it for you? Would that free you up to do things that are more engaging, more exciting, and less anxiety-inducing?
In the context of business, you have a great many different tasks to do as a business owner. One of those is marketing. Except for the fact that marketing is, in itself, an umbrella of activities. So we break those down further and put them on the to-do list.
That’s a lot of stuff, are you sure you’ll be able to get it all done? What about all that copy you need to write? Will you manage to get that done AND the mountain of other things you need to do? Oh, here comes the urge to procrastinate again. Why don’t you outsource it instead? (go to www.thecopyadventure.com for more info on that)
Is the task worth the energy that goes into putting it off?
The answer to that is likely to be a resounding no. If you could make the task disappear, what would you do with that time?
The reason I asked you what you would do with the extra time if you didn’t have to do that task is that I feel it is important to highlight that all the things that you could potentially be doing instead of that task you are still not doing, despite not doing that task.
You are not putting that task off because you have something more important to deal with. Putting things off uses just as much energy as doing the task but it accomplishes nothing.
The paradoxical nature of procrastination
Procrastination can be somewhat paradoxical. The things we do when we procrastinate use just as much energy as the things we do when we are productive but, the things we do when procrastinating can often be damaging.
The negative self-talk we spout to ourselves when we engage in procrastination makes us even more anxious, and even less focused, and drives us to procrastinate further. We create and feed the beast. It is of our own making, therefore we have the power to banish it.
The power you hold over yourself is immeasurable. You can trip yourself up and pick yourself up, you can encourage yourself or you can discourage yourself, it is entirely up to you.
The problem is internal but, so is the solution
As I have already mentioned in this article, you hold the power within you to overcome procrastination. Before you can utilize the power you need to take the time to think introspectively and figure out exactly what is causing you to feel so anxious which is then leading you to procrastination.
There is no cookie-cutter or step by step guide for that kind of thinking. All I can do is point you in the right direction, it is up to you to take the reins of your life.
Be your own strongest advocate and take charge of your internal narrative
Contrary to how it feels, you are not a slave to your internal narrative. That narrative is your creation; you are not a product of it.
The reason that narrative is so negative is because of you. Please don’t take that as a disparaging comment, what I mean is quite the opposite. What that means is that only you have the power to change the tone and direction of your internal narrative.
If you can have a positive impact on the way you speak to and about yourself it will freeze you from a lot of unnecessary emotional baggage. Doing this will supercharge your ability to focus.
The work is continuous the reward is vast
Overcoming procrastination isn’t a one and done operation. This is work that you will need to continue to do day in and day out but, the rewards you get from doing so are immeasurable. Every area of your life will benefit from introspective thought from the increase in self-awareness.
Self-awareness is something I’ve already written about and there are some simple exercises that you can do that will help to increase your level of self-awareness. If you check out the following article you’ll find some simple but incredibly powerful exercises that you can do to help build up your self-awareness https://mybizacademy.co.uk/be-more-self-aware-its-not-hard