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Do you have a task that has been on your to-do list for a while but you just don’t seem to be able to get around to it? Is there a reason you have been putting it off? Are you distracting yourself with other tasks that seem more palatable?
If so, you could be one of the 20 - 25% of people who are chronic procrastinators (source: Ferrari JR, Díaz-Morales JF. Procrastination and mental health coping: A brief report related to students. Individual Differences Research. 2014;12(1):8–11.)
In this blog post, I’ll be discussing fear and procrastination and give you strategies to overcome this.
What is procrastination and what does it have to do with fear?
Procrastination is the practice of constantly avoiding or putting off tasks and responsibilities. From speaking with my clients and reflecting on my own experiences, procrastination tends to rears its head when there is a fear involved. This can be due to fear of failure, fear of success, fear of humiliation as examples. Fear can become prevalent in task-oriented environments where the individual may be worried how their process and completion of a task may be viewed by others, especially those superior to them.
This fear doesn’t just lead to the procrastination but can have other impacts, namely on a person’s mental health and well-being. The fear can also lead to anxiety, lack of concentration and feelings of low self worth.
I spent a great deal of my corporate life working on project teams. Team members would be allocated tasks to complete with deadlines. I remember times when I wanted to perform and complete my tasks so well that it had me putting the tasks off from the fear that I wouldn’t be able to meet the expectations of my project manager and my teammates. I would end up completing the task with moments to go before the deadline and then have no way of looking over my own work before it needed to be ‘handed in’.
This then caused me more anxiety about whether my work was ‘up to par’ or whether I would need to go away and do some rework.
It’s not just in our working lives that procrastination can appear. Our personal lives are not immune from us putting off our tasks and responsibilities. It could be something as simple as not putting on the washing or making a doctors appointment for something that has been niggling you for a while.
For women, we may not realise that we are procrastinating because our to-do list seems never-ending! Our procrastination could be hidden behind the way we prioritise the tasks and responsibilities we have.
So, how do we break the cycle of fear and procrastination? Let’s take a look…
1. Identify that you are procrastinating.
This may sound simple but sometimes procrastination can be sneaky! This may look like prioritising your tasks and responsibilities in a way that actually has you putting off or avoiding certain items.
2. Take a step back and ask yourself why you are procrastinating
What is holding you back from completing this particular tasks? Is it a fear or anxiety that is driving the avoidance?
3. Give yourself some compassion
Beating yourself up about procrastinating will not help you to overcome your patterns. Allow yourself the grace that you are aware and want to improve this part of your life.
4. Revisit the task and break it down
Look at the task or responsibility you have been avoiding. Can it be broken down into simpler, more achievable tasks?
5. Set yourself a deadline and reward
Give your tasks a deadline and reward yourself for each task that you complete. The reward doesn’t have to be a grand gesture for yourself but something to keep you motivated.
6. Enlist an accountability buddy
If you are finding it hard to stay on track, enlist the help from someone supportive who can keep you accountable to your tasks and their deadlines.
7. Keep distractions to a minimum
One great way we procrastinate is by using technology. This can be checking emails, notifications on our phones or scrolling mindlessly. When you’re looking to work on your task try to limit your distractions so that you can remain focused.
8. Get help or support
Are you avoiding your task or responsibility because you don’t actually know how to do it or deal with it? If so, ask for help. This could be getting some training at work or finding someone who is an expert in that particular field. If it involves learning something new, this can also be a boost for your self esteem!
Are you the one who has to do this particular task? Can it be given to someone else to do? Sometimes we hold on to tasks so that we don’t feel as we can’t cope or have failed in some way. Can you let go of the task so that it can be completed by someone else?
10. Make it fun!
Is there a way you can make the task fun? Can you do something fun, like listening to music, whilst you are completing the task?
Building Your Confidence and Self Worth
Procrastination can make us feel anxious but can also knock our confidence and self worth. When we feel unable to complete tasks or meet our responsibilities it can lead to feelings of failure. Putting strategies in place to help you to reduce or eliminate your procrastination can help you to start building your confidence and self worth.
When you see yourself completing tasks or take on your responsibilities you will start to feel more positive, which in turn will motivate you keep building on your growth.
Although most procrastination can be dealt with following strategies such as the ones described in this blog post, for some people procrastination runs more deeply, especially where it starts to affect their day to day life. In these instances the support of a professional may be required. If this is something that you feel you are unable to resolve or support yourself with, please get the necessary help from a professional.
Coaching or therapy can target the areas that are causing you to procrastinate and help you to break patterns and negative self-talk that keep you in the cycle of procrastinating.
There are many free resources available on the internet which can help you to overcome procrastination. There is a book that does this brilliantly: ‘Eat That Frog’ by Brian Tracy. You can find it on Amazon and in all good bookstores.
Let me go back to the question I asked at the beginning of this blog post:
Do you have a task that has been on your to-do list for a while but you just don’t seem to be able to get around to it?
If you do, you’re not alone, but maybe now is the time to look at why you’re not getting around to that task and meet it head on. If you would like support in doing this book a discovery call with me.