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24 Jul, 2012

Change Your Procrastination Habits

Posted by: The Coaching Academy In: Coaching Articles

Change Your Procrastination Habits

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.

7 Responses to "Change Your Procrastination Habits"

1 | eileen pollard

July 25th, 2012 at 6:53 pm

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Oh dear reading this was far too close to home for comfort!
So I have decided to write a response rather than leave it to the perfectly certain people who need no assistance and don’t fear failure.
Yes it is sooo easy to find “logical” reasons for not getting on with life. I will try harder to recognise my logic for what it is – procrastination.
There I did it!

2 | Roy

July 25th, 2012 at 10:16 pm

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Another attitude for procastination is what ever I do is a waste of time.

3 | Temi

July 26th, 2012 at 6:25 am

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Great article & so so true. Inspiring & push to initiate action.

4 | Penny Ann Budgen

July 26th, 2012 at 11:21 am

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One more big one:
Rigid Thinking:
Sounds like this: ‘I’m the sort of person….” You can’t teach old dogs new tricks’. People don’t change’, ‘what am I like! Life’s just like that…’ etc.etc.

Having justified why we cant move forward we feel happy and secure in this protected state. Who, after all can challenge this stuff but we,ourselves?! And we can’t – it’s just how we’re made! The knot is tied.

Inevitably, we are cornered into convincing ourselves we must ‘make the best of what we’ve got’ (not a bad approach), work within our sphere of influence (sensible and stress reducing), go with the flow (go at the pace of others) …………..are happy to be stuck.

People who recognise the power this kind of thinking has over their capacity to see, move forward or innovate are in a brilliant position to untie their own knots!

A philosophical note:

As our survival and happiness actually depend on how successfully we adapt to changes in our world (internal and environmental), this kind of rigid thinking means we spend most of our energies swimming against the tide. We can end up denying ourselves the capacity and power to grow, flourish and contribute. Just a thought :-) .

5 | Sara

July 27th, 2012 at 1:33 am

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I agree with the comments and advice. I tend to delay starting things due to fear of failure. I think it was down to an over cautious and anxious father who had high standards and who himself, was afraid to fail and make mistakes. He liked to play safe and have all the facts. I find that I am good in jobs where one has procedures and quality standards as I can look at items and facts inside and out but it does stop me from being brave and just leaping in. I think lack of support or having a family to help you if things go wrong, can hold you back! I also hate to be trapped in something and not be able to get out and be free to can wait until I have nearly all the facts often getting stressed in the meantime and then not reaching any conclusions. I am worse in my personal life as find work and business much easier as there are clear objectives. Anyone else feel the same?

6 | Tunde

July 27th, 2012 at 1:17 pm

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One habit i need to drop fast! thanks for the write up.

7 | Deirdre Yearwood-Moore

August 7th, 2012 at 9:33 pm

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I thoroughly agree with this article and feel like I am reading it a year too late. I am constantly missing deadlines I am failing to get started and I am beginning to feel like a failure and wondering why did I start this venture as it seems I do not have the necessary smarts to finish it. Before I procrastinate any more I am off to book a mentoring session. Thanks

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