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We all do it sometimes, right?

We all do it sometimes, right?

By Trevor Coltham

There’s something we know we should do, yet we put it off. It then plays on our mind, and the more it troubles us, the bigger and nastier it appears to get. Even then, we still don’t take action until the very last moment when the pain of not doing it overwhelms us into action.

Sound familiar?

You may have noticed that the more you put off a task until another time, the more you tend to dwell on it or stress about it. In the end you may end up spending more energy finding other things to do than the original task would have taken in the first place. Consider the embarrassment you feel when you let someone down, the feelings of shame, guilt and frustration.

This little cycle of inaction costs energy, stress, frustration and prevents you making decisions. It can lead to feelings of inadequacy and has negative effects on your family, friends, co-workers and friends, yet we still do it.

Why?

It’s possible you are thinking that our brains should be smarter than this. Here’s the thing, our brains are driven by emotions. Procrastination is a clever strategy that we do to keep us safe and free of pain. So, if the task is not one that you are really motivated to do, the brain defers action (pain now) to do more pleasurable things. This is true even if you procrastinate by doing trivial things to give momentary pleasure like checking your phone, social media, calling a friend for an overdue chat or sorting through a stack of paperwork (busy work).

I’m guessing you recognise this pattern?

Could it be that at some level your mind is protecting you from something that could be uncomfortable, painful or that stresses you out. The mind is great at seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.

At a deeper level, procrastination meets a core need – safe and sound in your comfort zone. If you’re like most people, procrastination may be giving you the illusion of staying safe but really, it’s keeping you from reaching a few or many of your aspirations and goals. In other words, it’s keeping you from being all you can be.

Procrastination is like buying luxury goods on credit. You are just a buying a lifestyle at a premium. Sooner or later the stuff you bought ages, the fun ends and you must pay back with interest. We want the pleasure now, and to push away the pain, even though logically we know the pain is much greater down the track.

When you’re finished with the mass of excuses, you’ll come to one indisputable conclusion — there’s only one person who can hold you back from achieving the happiness, success, health, relationships and wealth that you know you’re capable of…

You!

The fantastic news is that procrastination can be easily overcome. Beware though because when it does, you’ll be changed forever! Procrastination is after all just putting off something you are going to do anyway.

There have been thousands of books published on the topic. Here are a few pointers to get you on your way:

Step 1 – Turn on your procrastination detector.

When you detect it, aim to figure out what your big WHY is. It might be uncomfortable to pick up the phone and call new potential clients, get up for a run, first thing in the morning? Focus on the positive outcomes, what you will gain by acting now.

Step 2 – Listen to the internal dialogue and look at the negative picture that gets painted in your mind that justifies putting off the task.

Maybe it goes a little like this:

I should make these calls – Inner dialogue “I have lots of admin to do, and the CRM isn’t updated yet” The picture in your mind’s eye “prospects angry face when you call and interrupt her” Decision – I’ll do more calls on Thursday to make up.

Now focus on your WHY…and change the internal conversation and picture

I must make these calls – Inner dialogue “I” have lots of admin…blah blah..”  answer the inner dialogue “Yes you do…and I want to feel fantastic when I get my bonus payment at the end of the quarter” Create a new picture in your mind’s eye “See yourself paying for the holiday with your family” New Decision – Jump onto the phone and get dialling.

After a while this will happen automatically, scrambling the old and making a new habit. Remember – always make sure you give yourself a HUGE WHY.

Step 3 – Repeat every time this procrastination pattern comes up.

The old pattern will never be the same again!

Step 4 – Make a list of all the next day’s tasks the night before and highlight the ones you tend to put off.

Make it a habit to do these first each day using the steps above.

Step 5 - You're kidding right!

You don’t need any more steps…go do Step 1 on a task you’ve been avoiding now! 

Want to learn more?