MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU. NOT.

The majority of that headline originates from an iconic movie. However, there is a totally different type of force lurking in all our lives.

The force to be reckoned with many times /quite often, is that of delaying or postponing a task or tasks. In other words, to procrastinate.  Hands up if you know anyone who has fallen prey to this particular act. 

THE WHAT 

Pinpointing the what is most likely the easy part: it is the process of convincing ourselves that doing something else rather than what we are meant to do, is acceptable. Loosely translated: a lack of self-control

Procrastination is not a 21-century phenomena. It can be traced back all the way to the ancient Greeks. In particular philosophers like Socrates and Aristotle were aware of it. They actually called it Akrasia: acting against your better judgement. 

Whether we want to be Greek or modern about it, at the end of the day it’s the same: “it is a force that prevents us from following through on what we set out to do” to quote James Clear from this article of his which is an eye opener. After reading it I was fascinated even more than before by this occurrence. So I felt the need to put pen to paper (so to speak) and delve deeper into such a situation.

THE WHY

When it comes to why us as humans tend to succumb to this force of delaying, there is much more to it than being described as lazy. In actual fact, our life’s control centre, the brain, has the answer. 

The basics are that 2 parts are involved in the action. One being us in the Present and the other being us in the Future. Think of yourself as the Future You which is the person that creates longterm targets to aim for. Then, visualise yourself as the Present You which is the one that needs to take the action.  And to take action is not a future decision, right? It is something you have to do now - and that’s the moment you automatically start an argument (for want of a better word) with the Future You. 

The here and now requires and enjoys immediate results. No need to wonder about tomorrow. So even though you have set a target to complete a task in the near future, if the end result is not instant, the question arises “why do it now then?” We basically over-ride the good intentions of the Future You. 

THE NEXT MOVE

Now that we have a better understanding of what is going on when we put off what we were supposed to do, we need a solution. Some kind of method is required for us to overcome the stress and worry of not actually get going

Let’s face it, we do really want to complete or achieve the task in hand. After all, it will cause great satisfaction and in general we will feel quite proud of ourselves to reach the goal set out by the Future You. My suggestion is a simple, yet very effective recipe to reap the fruits of our labour.

I would like to share 8 steps that personally works for yours truly. They are neither outrageously difficult nor are they impossible. The crux of the matter is that only manageable steps will do the trick - or so I believe. 

  • Book A Time 

    As we make appointments for business meetings, to see a doctor, to attend an event, etc., do the same for your tasks. Literally mark your diary with a block of time to complete what needs to be done. Even set a reminder to notify you when you need to start. 

  • Time Yourself

    Linking this step to the above, set an alarm to go off when you are almost at the end of the allotted time you set out in your diary. The notification will remind you that your should be close to completing the task. 

  • Do it. Now.

    Many times we remind ourselves via a To Do List that something needs to be sorted out. Such a list, on many occasions, gets as long as an arm - which causes even more stress.  If at all possible, start that reminder now and get it over and done with. See it as one less thing to do tomorrow.

  • One At A Time

    The amount of humans in life that can multitask are few and far in between. If you’re one of the lucky ones, good on you. Most of us struggle with the concept leave alone mastering it. Therefore, focus on one thing at a time. 

  • No Diversions

    Distractions are quite possibly procrastination dressed up as a saint. Get rid of anything that will hinder you and make you loose concentration (i.e. mobile devices, etc.). Even if your environment (like working from a coffee shop) causes problems, change it. 

  • It’s Up To You

    It is a good idea to keep your daily (and long term) goals to yourself. Shouting them from the rooftops will trick your brain into believing you’v already accomplished them - hence reducing your motivation to actually work towards them. 

  • Be Aware Of Thieves

    Watch out for your mind as it will play tricks on you.  Many times it may feel much more attractive to quickly put a washing cycle on, do some hoovering or even allow yourself a 5 min break on your sofa. Don’t Fall Into The Trap!

  • Get Pumped

    Not referring to your muscles at this moment in time, but rather to your mind. Seek and inject your brain with uplifting images, positive people and nourishing, healthy foods. You will need energy for both body and mind to keep going. 

CONCLUSION

Of course, as with so many issues in life, battling procrastination is far easier said than done. However, it is honestly not impossible. Apart from the guidance above (which I hope helped you), the ultimate ingredient for bashing any signs of delaying tasks, is a Positive Mindset

As a human you may think or even believe, you haven’t got much going in life, or, even if you do think you have quite a bit going for, there could be a time when your whole being is not entirely happy about anything - leave alone not finishing some tasks. Such moments require strength and determination. Both these ingredients can be obtained by telling yourself Your Are Enough and You Are Worth it. If you focus on a brighter outlook everyday the better you will become about feeling positive in general.

Once you have a strong positivity going on in your mind, the easier it becomes to achieve whatever you want to achieve. And we can only achieve milestones if we set them up for ourselves and we get going and do whatever it takes to reach our targets.

Take a confident first step. Don’t put off those important tasks, conversations or projects any longer. Give doing them an immediate go. The only way to get there in the end is to put your best foot forward. One. Step. At. A. Time.

And lastly, but very importantly, Forgive Yourself. To procrastinate is a common experience. Most will say it’s unavoidable. So don’t beat yourself up over it. Be kind to yourself especially after you've gotten through a bout of delayed tasks. Trust yourself to learn from the experience and do better next time.

As always, please feel free to share, comment or send me a message if you have any questions and/or can relate to this post. 

You can reach me here, or on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook & Instagram

And most of all… Thank You for reading. 

READ. THINK. ACT.

Have you ever felt like just sitting back and do whatever it is you’re suppose to do, later? Do you get that feeling of ‘I really can’t be bothered to do this now’? Most of all, are you irritated with yourself for having these feelings and the fact that you then not get on with the task in hand?

It may come as a surprise to you, but the truth is you’re not alone in the world with this kind of emotion. Procrastination, or as the dictionary puts it ‘the action of delaying or postponing something’ is more common that you imagine.

It took me a really long time to realise that it’s a everyday recurrence for many – and that when it happens it’s not the end of the world! Time after time when this happens to me now I come out of the moment much richer and more focussed. Honestly, that really happens. There is a reason for your mind to slip into this kind of mode.

The general believe is that it’s not healthy to spend time with your own thoughts. Luckily, there are many more that believes the complete opposite. And I am one of the latter. Taking time out creates clarity in my mind and head. I reflect on issues and figure out how to address them and work through them.

Therefore I believe no one should feel uncomfortable and upset when this happens in their lives. It is nothing to be ashamed of. If you work out what the procrastination is about you’ll realise and see you needed a moment to make sure something is either right, wrong or can wait till later.

Reading the post by Ric Edelman on How Procrastination Can Help You Accomplish More confirms my believes. In this article Ric puts it very simply and to the point that it actually is ‘one of your most useful tools in the workplace’ – and I can’t agree more. I’ve commented before that ‘taking a step back’ or ‘get up and do something else’ more than often solves the problem. It was quite late within my career working in offices that having such an attitude became clear to me. Many, many times I felt that I need to address an email – or follow up on a voicemail – immediately. For example… a client makes a change to a delivery date bringing it forward with the notion it is now crucial to be completed sooner rather than later. Jumping in head first and start making the changes in your teams’ diaries, increase the pressure on suppliers, etc. in general cause havoc for everyone. Then 10 mins later, the client is back on the phone and now the deadline has changed again – only this time it’s pushed back with days! You go back to everyone, luckily with some good news, however the stress levels have already risen. On top of all, you interrupted that important piece of work you were doing and now you have lost your focus. Was it all necessary? No, not at all. If you only left the new instructions for a bit to ‘simmer’ on the back burner, none of the stress would’ve happened.

Don’t get me wrong, we can’t put everything ‘off till later’, but this is where the ‘focus and concentration’ comes in – and perhaps a bit of procrastination? Of course you need to address the issue and figure out if it is as important as they make out or not. I just found that most of the time it’s not needed to storm ahead and ‘fix’ problems immediately. The amazing thing about ‘problems’ is that they do have a habit of fixing themselves – specially if you give it a bit of ‘breathing space’.