Procrastination – The action of delaying or postponing something that must be done.
“I’ll do it later.” It’s a common phrase we’ve all used at some point despite that nagging voice in the back of our heads trying to tell us it’s a bad idea. Whether it’s a project with a deadline, a potentially frustrating phone call to someone, or something as simple as preparing a meal to eat tomorrow, we sometimes believe that later will be better. This “later is better” barrier is called procrastination and can be a colossal symptom masking a snowballing confidence problem. Luckily, we’re hard-wired with an internal G.P.S. worth of answers to help us step into the “now.”
Discovering the common causes of procrastination will help you release its power on you. Let’s start by asking yourself some critical questions and examining the limiting beliefs tied to them:
What am I scared I’ll mess up?
Fear of failure is a real thing. Self-doubt can often trigger you into not wanting to complete something right away. The later you start, the later you’ll have to consider how judged you’ll be on the outcome. Procrastination lends an even stronger hand to your limiting beliefs. After all, you can blame failure on having limited time to achieve your goal. Unfortunately, that’s just an excuse, and those don’t help us grow. Think through what you’re scared to “mess up” and determine what “messing up” even means.
What are you expecting your outcome to be?
If you’re thinking about achieving the “perfect” result, you might fall into a procrastination trap. Perfection is an idea we can’t achieve because it exists solely in our minds. The word itself means the condition, state, or quality of being free from all flaws or defects. That sounds amazing, but when it comes to human beings, there’s always a way to improve. Procrastination helps you avoid the potential to face your imposter syndrome and need to feel perfect. The problem is it won’t help you grow. Consider what “success” truly means in the situation you’re in.
What is motivating me to get this done?
If you want to instinctually say, “nothing,” or if your mind focuses on the negatives you might experience just for working on a goal, you’ll need to examine your values. Lack of motivation often means you’re focused on the glass being half empty, and instead of fixing the negativity, you might turn to procrastination. Your brain will have no choice but to feel that avoiding your to-do list is more rewarding than just getting it done. It’s a recipe for disaster. You’ll be so busy convincing yourself how much better it feels to say you’re unmotivated that you won’t notice your timeline until it’s too late. Ponder through what achieving a positive outcome can do for you.
Asking yourself these three questions will help you move towards a “now” state where the growth mindset exists. When your mind doesn’t focus on the past or the potential future and is truly grounded in what you have, it can release fears of failure, misconceptions of perfection, and a heavy focus on the negative. That’s where your internal G.P.S. comes in.
Your internal G.P.S. is a guidance system that knows what to do. It guides you instinctually and through logic. Coaches often help people connect with their internal G.P.S. to determine their mindset and activate their sense of taking action. Even though you would expect this inner guidance system always to be “functional,” science has shown that excuses, a lack of accountability, and social pressures often push it down and away from daily use. This is the same reason companies adopt the logic of utilizing managers for oversight. The job of a manager who oversees employees is to help remove barriers and improve positive action.
Regardless of whether you have a coach, manager, or friend to offer help, it would be best if you always focused on triggering your own mind to reset into the “now” so you can activate your internal G.P.S. Understanding how to do that comes down to remembering these three rules:
“G” Stands for GOAL
Rule #1: Set a Goal. Break things down by understanding what you must do and determining in what increments you can section your project. You would likely not take a road trip across the United States without ever stopping for rest, so use that same principle to tackle whatever you need to do. What is the clear goal you want to achieve overall, and what are the clear sub-goals you’ll want to achieve that get you to the overall one?
“P” Stands for PRIORITIZE
Rule #2: Prioritize. Once you know your sub-goals, you can figure out how to prioritize your days and anything else you need to get done in general. The Eisenhower Matrix is an effective way to help you visualize your priorities. To complete it, you’ll need to divide each action you “need to” and “want to” get done into four sub-categories: Urgent & Important, Important but not Urgent, Urgent but not Important, and Neither Urgent or Important. Once you’ve clarified these tasks with this matrix, you’ll be poised for more robust prioritization.
“S” Stands for Schedule
Rule #3: Keep a Schedule. The more you can structure your subgoals within a schedule, the more likely you are to achieve them. It’s far easier to take that road trip across the United States if you tell yourself which hotels you’ll stop at on the way. Allocating a specific set of blocked time towards a task or subgoal will help you reach your main goal more effectively.
Goal-setting, Prioritization, and Scheduling (“G.P.S.”) are practical tools to help your mind stay in the “now” when facing a project. The G.P.S. concept will help reduce your desire to procrastinate while enhancing your drive to succeed. The more you practice activating your internal G.P.S. by speaking (or writing out) each component, the more your brain will become well-practiced. This ability to stay in the “now” and stay organized pays dividends with your work-life balance, desire for productivity goals, and your balance of confidence with personal relationships.
The biggest problem most people have with accessing their internal G.P.S. is the activation of procrastinating excuses and the notion that they are above the concept. This doom cycle and superiority complex significantly destroy your ability to be in the “now,” so focus on defeating it if you want to succeed. Procrastination plays games with your daily life, your social endeavors, and your ability to truly grow but the way to overcome it starts with your ability to have an honest dialogue with yourself. Stepping into the “now” can empower you – it’s up to you to want it.
If adjusting a habit of procrastination feels like an important thing for you to tackle in a project, go through the following questions:
- What am I scared I’ll mess up?
- What outcome am I expecting?
- What is motivating me to get this done?
Once you’ve internally examined these ideas, your next step is following your Internal G.P.S.
The only thing holding you back from success is YOU.