How to Stop Procrastinating: Once and For All
We all procrastinate; some more so than others. It’s usually in relation to the jobs I hate, such as cleaning out the attic (I’ve been talking about it for about five years now). But, strangely, I sometimes even procrastinate with the things I love doing (such as creative writing)…why do I do everything else first, before ‘allowing’ myself time or my hobby.
Unfortunately, we see a lot of new clients in our clinics who have put off losing weight for years; “I’ll do it when the kids leave home,”, “I’ll wait until I’m less stressed,” or “I’ll tackle it when I don’t have so much to do,” are often the phrases we hear. But, sadly, this type of procrastination be catastrophic…leading to poor health, low mood, not to mind an extremely limited wardrobe.
So what are we waiting for?
What’s Behind it?
Why do we procrastinate? Usually it’s for some or all of the following reasons:
– Perfectionism: some of us wait for circumstances to be ‘just right’ before we do whatever we are meant to do. We might feel that there are rigid standards about how thing ought to be done and we fear we will fail if we try. What if it’s not brilliant, but it’s good enough? Isn’t that worth a try?
– Discomfort Dodging: we avoid activities that will cause us discomfort or anxiety. But, rather ironically, the act of dodging the activity doesn’t make it go away as tensions actually mount. Remember, anything worth doing usually involves some degree of discomfort. Think of exercise – it needs some effort but, once you start, most of us feel it’s a lot easier (and more enjoyable) than we imagined. Same with tidying that godforsaken attic (well, it’s easier; maybe not so much enjoyable!).
– Guilt-Driven: we all have felt it – guilt over tasks undone. But rather than correct the original lack of action, the procrastination seems to worsen in order to not face up to the guilt feelings. This can start with weeks of procrastination, leading to years of avoidance: just think of house hoarders as an extreme example!
– Habitual: procrastinating over weight, for example, becomes an ingrained response. The person no longer thinks about why they do it, they feel it’s just a part of themselves. It becomes an automatic response to say, “This is too hard”, “I’m too tired”, or to laugh it off as a character flaw. But now it’s time to break that habit!
– Collusion: sometimes we are too indulged by those around us who allow our procrastination and listen to our excuses…for instance, has your partner or family members ‘given up’ on telling you how worried they are about your health? They might now even make things worse by bringing you home take-aways or sweets. For them, they are just being kind but, for you, it feels like they’ve lost faith in your ability to lose weight. But that faith and drive has to come from YOU.
– How Can I Overcome Procrastination?
Here’s 7 ways….
1. Only bite off what you can chew: Break large projects up into smaller tasks. For example, if you have two stone to lose, break it up into four segments of losing a half a stone each time. Each segment may be different in length. Just focus on that first half stone, and forget about the rest. What do you need to do to get that first half a stone off? Maybe fill in your daily diary, stick to the food plan and start walking half an hour each day. One or two goals or habits to work on each week is plenty.
2. Just Do It! Next time you catch yourself saying, “I can do this later”, think Nike. Just do it! Push on through the uncomfortable feelings and do it now. The feeling you get when you finish will be so much better than any relief you get from putting it off. Remember the phrase: “You can have results or excuses but not both!”
3. Schedule Reward Time: Tell yourself, I will work hard now and then I will allow myself 10 minutes or longer to sit down and relax, read the paper or have a nice cup of coffee or a long soak in a bath afterwards. And build in rewards for every milestone you reach…such as, for every half a stone lost I will treat myself to a new top or a massage.
4. Anxiety Buster: does the thought of performing a certain task fill you will anxiety and dread? Try this:
Take a deep breath in. Next, start to exhale all the air out of your lungs.
Count from 1-20 slowly on your fingers, expelling the air out as you do.
Inhale and repeat.
The aim is to completely empty your lungs and to pace your ‘out breath’ slowly so that you can push the counting number past 20.
After each breath, you should notice that your heart rate is actually slowing and you are feeling less tense. Now, do something, not matter how small. Just make a start. The very act of accomplishing something will ease your anxiety.
5. Change Your Expectations: next time you catch yourself using language like ‘should’ or ‘must’, evaluate if these are only restrictions you are imposing on yourself or are they actually backed up by the reality of the situation? Don’t make the mistake of saying to yourself, “I must lose x stone by y date’. Make a flexible plan that uses terms such as ‘It would be great if I lost x by around y time’.
6. Mental Tricks: if you have several small jobs to do, which are directly related to the project at hand, do these first. Even though you have some larger tasks left, psychologically it gives you a feeling that you have accomplished something. For instance, if you have to batch cook, why not chop all our veg and put into plastic containers until you have more time for actually cooking them later that day?
7. The Best Laid Plans: don’t panic if you get behind schedule. If you’ve allowed yourself extra time each day, you will simply shift everything forward until you catch up. The key is to leave enough time and room to be flexible. For instance, if you’ve committed to walking half an hour every day but you’re been too busy for the last 2 days to do any walking, simply throw in an extra hour’s walking at the weekend.
Okay – so yes, I promise to tackle that attic this weekend. Now it might take me a few months, but I’ll make a start. Deal!