How can I stop procrastinating?

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and start procrastinating over the things I need to complete. Lucky for me it is not for long. Do these thoughts or ‘scripts’ go on in your head when it comes to completing a task that has been dragging on and on?

I will never get this done
I don’t have the time to do this properly
There’s too much and I just can’t get started
I feel overwhelmed
I’m exhausted – too tired to do this now
This can wait – I will leave it until tomorrow
This is all too hard
Time for a drink
I’m hungry again – I need a break
I’ll just check some scores/shares/see what’s on TV

Too often we are pumping our brains with unhelpful procrastination and punishment scripts that paralyse us into inaction. It’s easy to get into a habit of programming ourselves with reluctance, paralysis and self-defeating thoughts. Why do we believe it will be easier not to do the tasks or work and instead put them off? Maybe we are afraid of failure. If we do the task we will not be successful, or it won’t be perfect.

Eventually we get that something done and we realise how it was not that hard to just push through and get it completed and out of the way. Then we wonder why we didn’t finish it sooner when it wasn’t that hard, or didn’t take that long. It’s a wonderful feeling of euphoria when we overcome blocks, of seeing the end result of finishing. Maybe we procrastinate long enough so that when we do overcome that silly block (eg. completing a tax return, writing the report or finishing the budget) it is a euphoric feeling!

Successful people use helpful scripts and develop strategies to overcome and minimise these blocks. They learn how to recognise the signs of indecision and procrastination, and how to cut them off before they develop. Their negative feelings and scripts are kept to a minimum or ‘rewritten’ quickly.

These are the helpful scripts that can get you through:

I am in control
I will just keep going until I finish
I will keep going and persevere
I can do this – it will take time but I will succeed
I am positive
I can make this happen

The first step in dealing with our paralysis scripts is to recognise they exist: it is to look for internal and external barriers that stop us achieving our goals. Here are some helpful tips:

Keep focused on the big picture
Sometimes we get sidetracked and upset about small things along the way. It is important to be able to tell yourself to step back, think of the bigger picture, remember what your vision is – and put the small things into perspective, so they no longer sidetrack you.

Tell someone you know what you are aiming to achieve. Share goals with those close to you.
Habits are our biggest obstacle to changing our behaviour. Habits are simply scripts, those that are part of the ‘black box of our brains’, deeply ingrained or embedded in us.

Remind yourself of the benefits ahead
Sometimes we procrastinate over decisions and actions, and this makes us feel bad. We are scared or anxious about what we have to do. So we leave a decision outstanding – waiting for a time when we can say one way or another more confidently what the decision should be. Some people procrastinate and look at everything several times over several days or weeks – maybe months or years with some decisions. A good thing to do is to focus on what’s best to achieve a goal and get the benefits ahead. It keeps you moving forward. It stops you getting stuck.

One of the best benefits we should remind ourselves of is simply how much better we feel after making the decision we were avoiding, or doing the task we were putting off. Focus on the importance of the task and the outcome, rather than thinking of the pain and effort of a difficult task. Tell yourself: “I’m going to feel better once this is done.” Create a situation for where there’s more pleasure associated with doing the activity, than there is pain.

Too often we get stuck, or blocked, because we are focusing on the immediate difficulties and not on the eventual benefits. Whenever you find yourself procrastinating, remember why you are doing it, think of the benefits and how good you’ll feel once you’re finished.

Script editing: Learn to rewrite your negative scripts into positive ones.

Remove or replace all those paralysis scripts and create positive scripts that will help you achieve your goals.

Eve Ash is co-author of Rewrite Your Life! (Penguin Books) and creator of 500+ DVDs, podcasts and assessment tools to help you be more successful at work and in relationships.



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