How often do you want to do something important, but instead of doing it you make excuses that convince you to postpone taking action? Now let me ask you this, after putting something off once, how easy is it to put that same thing off again?
It gets easier every time, doesn’t it? That’s what we might call the mañana mentality. In other words, why do today what you can put off until tomorrow? The truth is, the more we make excuses, the more we buy into them. Eventually, procrastination becomes integrated into our identity. We actually become a procrastinator.
We all procrastinate to some degree. Why?
There are several factors that support the mañana mentality. By the way, in case you didn’t know, mañana is Spanish for tomorrow, but the way that word is often used, it has come to represent an attitude of purposeful avoidance.
Before we look at some ways to beat procrastination, let’s look at some of the less obvious characteristics of the mañana mentality and their subtle effects on our thinking.
3 Characteristics of procrastination
» Procrastination is habit forming. Even if your honest intention is to only put something off temporarily, the very act of procrastinating sets up a chain reaction that makes it easier to do it again. Why? Because it’s habit forming!
» Procrastination enlarges the task. When we procrastinate it actually causes our mind to exaggerate the scale of the task involved. The more often we put off doing something the more intimidating it feels. Eventually, the task gets so out of proportion in our minds that chances are we will probably never be able to get ourselves to take the necessary actions.
» Being over analytical leads to procrastination. Endlessly thinking about doing something can become an avoidance strategy. In the long run you end up spending more time and energy than it would require to just go do it. Along the way, you end up convincing yourself that it is something you can’t do. Now, instead of being productive you have spent your energy creating a limiting belief.
Now that we have looked into the eye of the procrastination monster, let’s consider some effective ways to slay this beast once and for all.
7 Simple actions to help you overcome procrastination
1. Vocabulary – Watch your choice of words and expressions when you talk about a task you need to do. This includes your verbal expressions and your self-talk. The words we use have a strong influence on our perception. To your nervous system there is a huge difference between “I should get this done” and “I want to get this done.” With should, our subconscious mind is telling our conscious mind that we shouldn’t be wasting our time on this task, because it’s not something we want to do. If that’s not the case, try to rephrase the sentence to better reflect what the task actually means to you. A more positive wording might be “This is important to me because it contributes to my life and I would love to get it done soon.”
2. Make a commitment – Don’t leave things floating in the indecision zone, go ahead and make a decision to commit to doing it. There is power associated with a commitment. Once you commit to doing something, you will have access to the energy required to do it. Tasks are rarely as difficult as procrastination makes them seem. Once we’ve actually committed to producing our desired result we unleash the resources needed to take the required actions and follow through to completion.
3. Know your reasons – Sometimes we get so caught up in our busy routine, running from one task to the next, that we forget to clarify the reasons we are doing something. Ask yourself “Why is this important to me and how does it contribute to my life?” Understanding the reasons behind your actions helps you appreciate the value of each task. Seeing the big picture also helps put the effort required in perspective with benefits you will receive.
4. Use pain and pleasure anchors – It is well established that we are hardwired to move toward pleasure and away from pain. If you associate the accomplishment of a task with pleasure and procrastination with pain, what happens? You will be motivated to take the actions that lead to pleasure and avoid the pain of inaction. What do you stand to lose if you don’t complete this task? How will your life be better when you do complete it? Pain and pleasure paradigms have a powerful influence on what actions we will take and what actions we will avoid taking.
5. Focus on long term benefits – In our modern world the tendency is to choose instant gratification over long term benefits. While there is nothing inherently wrong with instant gratification it is only one form of satisfaction. While quick results may seem preferable, they are often devoid of any real sense of achievement. Adopting a goal setting mentality will add a dimension of depth and gratification that can only be achieved by getting involved in a more involved process.
6. Visual Reminders – It can be very helpful to use visual reminders to pull our attention back to the task at hand. I think that’s the reason post-it’s were invented. You can write a one or two word message on them and stick them almost anywhere. This can be an effective way to help counteract the many distractions that bombard us on a daily basis. A word of warning, this doesn’t work if you have too many reminders plastered all over everything. So limit this strategy to no more than a couple of different tasks for optimal results.
7. Stop thinking and start doing – Quite often all that is required is to take that first step, even if you are not sure what the next step will be. Action has a way of simplifying things because it gets us out of our heads and into the real world. I am reminded of the Ready, Fire, Aim approach used by many successful people. If you tend to over think things, try this approach to get things moving. It can be a real procrastination breaker.
You can overcome procrastination!
When you break the procrastination cycle by taking these simple actions, you will be surprised at how quickly and easily most tasks can be accomplished. In all likelihood, you will probably find yourself wondering why you didn’t just get it done in the first place.
There is no point in adding additional stress to our already busy (sometimes hectic) lives by constantly wrestling with procrastination. Apply some of these strategies and let me know how it works out for you. Do it today!
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