What are some ways to overcome procrastination?
Tackle procrastination head on. Don't make excuses or waste time rationalising why you haven't already started. Instead, try to uncover the real reason for the delay and get to it immediately.
The best way to begin something is just to begin, don’t think about it! Even a 10 minute walk is a good start.
What is procrastination and how can this be overcome?
We procrastinate on tasks we find “difficult, unpleasant, aversive or just plain boring or stressful.” If a task feels especially overwhelming or provokes significant anxiety, it's often easiest to avoid it.
Procrastination is not laziness: it's a behaviour caused by the stress in our lives or unfounded negative beliefs we have about ourselves. If you tend to procrastinate, don't be hard on yourself. Instead, ask yourself if your behaviour may be linked to fear, anxiety, ADHD, or another underlying issue?
For me exercise makes me feel good, due to the endorphins, the sense or achievement, my understanding if the benefits, my love of movement and the fulfilment of pushing myself to achieve goals.
I also love cleaning, as I listen to podcasts or audiobooks and fill my brain with more knowledge in my main areas of interest, mental and physical health and fitness. I love the fulfilment of seeing a clean, tidy house, achieving my step goals and learning at the same time.
I enjoy gardening, being outside in nature, moving and creating order and change.
I like doing accounting, organising my schedule and my family's schedules, paying bills and filing. My brain enjoys order and it helps me to feel on top of things so I'm less stressed and anxious.
Reasons why I procrastinate
The task that I always procrastinate over however is writing. I've always found it hard as it feels so open ended, ongoing, no right or wrong. I feel like it's all a bit out of my control and overwhelming, it challenges me and I know I'm not that good at it. There's so many tasks I'd rather do first so I always put it off. I prefer to move than be still, and can't manage to be still for long. Being still makes me uncomfortable. I can't sit in a car for long or go to the movies. I don't like going to restaurants as it annoys me sitting waiting. If I watch a movie at home I do Pilates or Yoga while I watch as I dislike just sitting still!
I procrastinate over my breath and meditation practice as I find stillness hard, I always feel better after my practice.
When I started writing my blog it was to help others with the health and fitness goals they are struggling to achieve. I tried to write weekly but it became too overwhelming and time consuming as I tried to research every detail, rather than write freely from my brain and heart. It became a rabbit hole which is never ending for every blog post. It would take me hours and days, often working into the night and sap my energy, leaving me frustrated and tired.
I took the pressure off myself and began to publish my posts fortnightly and lately has dropped to more like every three weeks, during the school holidays. It's still hard and I'm examining myself and how my brain works and developing an understanding of the procrastination and frustration so many feel with being unable to commit to and achieve their heaith and fitness goals, cleaning and tidying their home or managing other tasks they put off.
I realise we mustn't be hard on ourselves, but simply understand ourselves and focus on our positives and how to appreciate our difficulties and seek support in the areas we need, from those who have found fun ways to make these tasks easier to achieve.
I also always procrastinate over going to bed, and constantly end up going to bed close to midnight, even when I'm tired and I know I need more sleep and understand the important health benefits of going to bed earlier and waking naturally rather than with an alarm.
When I examine the reason for my procrastination and my constantly late bed times I realise it's the peace and quiet when my family has gone to bed so there is no distraction and I can concentrate better on more the more challenging tasks I push aside during the day, in favour of more active, less mentally challenging tasks I find easy, and I put first.
I don't let myself off the hook and make myself tick off as many off the 'to do' items on my list I can manage to stay awake to do before midnight, so the next day I don't wake up to a massive, overwhelming list of things I have failed to get done the day before, making the next day harder and feeling annoyed at myself for failing my previous days goals.
Why do I procrastinate so much?
Procrastination is the act of delaying something unnecessarily and voluntarily while being aware of the negative consequences of this action.
Thanks to our limbic system, the neurological powerhouse that controls our emotions and memory, we are inclined to feel before we think. To avoid experiencing negative feelings, we keep away from tasks that may overwhelm or inconvenience us.
By procrastinating, you hold the most control over the task. However, time constraints begin restricting your ability to make good decisions.
Procrastination also occurs when we are overwhelmed with a task. The complexity of a task can cause the brain to lose motivation and avoid doing it altogether, choosing instead to stay in its comfort zone.
Beginning and adhering to an exercise program is an example of an activity which many procrastinate over.
Even though we know it's for our health and well-being it's hard to make the start and continue our daily exercise program.
Why do we procrastinate and how to stop?
I asked my Mother and Father In Law how they managed to conquer their procrastination and have for the last year attended the gym twice every week to strength train, in addition to walking and swimming daily.
My Father In Law, who is a prolific academic professor and amazing writer, reports he couldn't motivate himself to exercise, even though he knew the benefits, from all the published research he had read. When he was advised by a trusted doctor about the serious stare of his cardiovascular health and metabolic system, he became motivated to exercise as he was afraid his life would be shortened if he didn't make changes. He continues with his research studies in his retirement and realised he needed to improve his health to be able to function at his desired level and continue his life work and passion with longevity.
My Mother In Law, a self employed and very respected, widely sought after high school Mathematics Tutor, was motivated both by seeing her husband's change in his behaviour, and following having both her hips replaced. She realised she needed to be fitter and stronger to recover from her surgery and be able to take care of herself and her eight young Grandchildren.
She also noted that being introduced to the gym by me, taking her in for a trial, introducing her to gym staff and participants, and attending with her the first few times with a program I developed for her, showing her how to locate and adjust the machines correctly, until comfortable to use herself, made all the difference for her.
A year on, both my Father and Mother In Law have been consistent, lost vast amounts of weight, feel energised, self confident and are eating healthily also. They are ready to progress their programs and increase from two to three strength sessions each week.
A lack of motivation is one of the leading reasons why people procrastinate. While being lazy isn’t always a bad thing, don’t let it become habitual.
What are the root causes of procrastination?
Some of the most common reasons for what causes procrastination include:
Fear of failure.
Fear of criticism.
A tendency to self-defeat.
Is procrastinating damaging?
Procrastination is associated with a wide range of mental health issues, stress related, as well as physical health issues, with an increased rate of chronic illness.
Furthermore, procrastination is also associated with issues when it comes to adjusting to and properly dealing with health conditions.
A procrastination cycle is a pattern of behaviour that people repeatedly go through when they delay unnecessarily, and especially one where procrastinating for a certain reason increases the likelihood of procrastinating for the same reason again in the future.
How to snap out of procrastination:
Keep a To-Do List.
Prioritise your To-Do List using Eisenhower's Urgent/Important Principle, (see below).
Become a master of scheduling and planning.
Tackle the hardest tasks at your peak times.
Set yourself small, time-bound goals and chip away. Often the thought of completing one large task can seem overwhelming.
Organise your tasks.
Focus your attention.
Are you still struggling with how where and how to start?
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Related Questions and Terms:
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Why do I procrastinate?
Why am I procrastinating?
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