The Enemy of Progress…

Have you ever had a “To Do” list a mile long will which keeps getting bumped into next week? Or maybe even next month? I’ve had some items that I have bumped into the next year and believe me when I say I have seen people bump things they define as important, into the next decade. This is a dangerous habit as it hinders your progress and keeps you stagnant, not moving forward, not reaching your potential. The enemy here is Procrastination.

In my experience, procrastination is often borne out of fear. That fear could be the fear of many things like the fear of failure, the fear of change, the fear of criticism from others, the fear of disappointing others or yourself or most interestingly, the fear of success. Recognising and facing up to your fears can make you a much happier and far more effective and efficient person. The best way to do this is to allow the fear in, feel it and recognise it for what it is. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this fear realistic?
  • What is the worst that could happen?
  • How would I overcome that situation?
  • Is it realistic to fear that this might happen?

For example, in setting up as a Coach I had the fear of becoming homeless, I know that was a bit of a stretch but it was the fear nevertheless. Upon further examination and asking the questions above, I realised that I was not being completely realistic and that the only way I could become homeless was if I didn’t take all the other actions available to me, like reducing my expenditure or going back to the corporate world. The realisation that I have a safety net was a vital in overcoming these life-limiting fears or ingrained limiting beliefs.

Key signs of Procrastination

You just don’t know where to begin so you don’t begin at all. Overwhelm can set in, which leads you to feel a great deal of stress about the task or tasks at hand and this renders you ineffective. Unfortunately, the only way to overcome this is to get started. Add everything you need to do to ‘the list’, then rank them in order of priority 1) Must be done today 2) Must be done this Week 3) Must be done this Month 4) Delegate this (and who to) and 5) Non-essential. Review your non-essentials and if there are any items that do not fit into Categories 1-4 cut them off the list, there is no point in stressing yourself out over things that aren’t important to you anyway.

You are a Perfectionist. You haven’t done the job perfectly so far so you don’t want to complete it at all. Perfectionism is an illusion, nothing in this world is perfect, look at the trees, if they aren’t able to grow straight because the wind is too strong, they grow with the wind direction instead. Quite often what we perceive to not be perfect enough to complete or hand in, or present, is still a fantastic job.

You just don’t enjoy the task, so you just don’t do it. This is a bit of a sorry not sorry one for me. Just get back to work and do it. I don’t like many things but I do them anyway otherwise they build up and up and become comparatively insurmountable tasks e.g. ironing, I hate ironing but it’s not going to go away just because I don’t like it. You’ll feel better once it’s done anyway.

You are an excessive multi-tasker. Multi-tasking is a sure way to stop yourself from giving 100% to any one task. Stop it. You need to make the main thing, the main thing and not focus on doing everything all at once. Prioritise as per point one and finish each task fully before moving on to the next one.

You feel anxious when you think of all you have to do. Procrastination can hold us back in so many ways and building anxiety is one of those ways. Anxiety is on the rise globally, the World Health Organisation even calls it an epidemic. Often we take on extra work because of the expectations, perceived or real, of others in our team or leadership team (or family) but you are not doing yourself or anyone else any favours taking on a workload you cannot manage. If the tasks are really out of control, ask for help and reduce the amount of extra work you say yes to.

You have started to lack confidence in key areas of your life. You are not getting anything done so you are beginning to question your own abilities and talents. Lack of progress can begin to chip away at your self-confidence and that can begin to play tricks on you by making you believe you are not good at tasks you used to be excellent at or that your time management skills are not what they used to be. Take stock, look back at all you have achieved and apply some perspective. If that doesn’t work, call your best friend and ask for a pep talk, if that doesn’t work call me and I will give you a pep talk (thinly veiled as a kick in the butt).

You spend too much time on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn (Hi, I see you), Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, YouTube etc. These Social Media platforms are both a blessing and a curse. They are wonderful for keeping in touch with friends and family and for joining like-minded communities, but you can find hours of your time spent scrolling up and down, and if you’re into Internet Dating – left and right, when you could be doing something more productive like watching Game of Thrones (just kidding). Seriously though, Social Media should be on a timer (imagined or real) and limited until you have completed at least a couple of items on that To Do list. You can even download free apps like Cold Turkey or Self Control for Mac (this one cannot be deactivated, even if you delete the app). A recent study, by Vouchercloud, of just under 2,000 office workers found that the average employee only puts in close to 3 hours of productive time out of their 8 hour work day. Go back and read that again. Imagine what could be done if those hours were used more productively. Ironically, blocking Social Media access in the office has not proven to increase productivity in employees.

Help is at Hand
If you need more help with Procrastination, then Coaching can help you to overcome procrastination by evaluating the value of the things you are putting off, identifying and overcoming fears and learning how to focus on one thing at a time. Coaching is also extremely beneficial in providing an accountability partner, to help you achieve your intended goals. If you would like a Coaching session with me, please book one here.

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