If you find that you generally create good results for yourself but you struggle to hit ‘great’ territory, it might be procrastination holding you back. Often the differentiator between people that can consistently hit great results is that they have the ability to do what needs to be done, whether they feel like it or not.
If you feel like you are constantly busy, constantly spinning your wheels, but not getting to where you want to be, it might be procrastination. Even if you are constantly working and producing and striving for your goals, if you aren’t putting your efforts behind the right tasks, you will struggle to reach that next step.
We are constantly fielding demands. Whether it’s an inbox flooded with emails, pings from social media, phone calls to return, or patients in the waiting room, there is always something to do. And it’s not that responding to emails isn’t necessary – it is. But it can also be a case that just because something is the most urgent, it still isn’t the most important.
Making time to prioritise and not put off important work that needs to be done is the ticket to reaching ‘great’ status consistently.
How do we do this?
Nail down your driving force.
Often for people that can cut through the noise and focus on what’s most important, they have a motivating event that offers them clarity of purpose. For example, a professional athlete might have one singular goal: go to the Olympics. This is their driving force that compels them out of bed early in the morning even on days when they want to hit snooze.
Your driving force might be a future you want for yourself like a stable practice you can sell and finance an early retirement. You might also find that your driving force is a situation you want to get out of or never fall into again.
Whatever it is, it can help lend clarity to your daily actions. What motivates you? Does this task draw you closer to your goals?
Understand the two kinds of happiness.
There is short-term happiness and satisfaction of enjoying your current situation. This might be enjoying a cocktail on a beach in Tahiti, but the desire to be happy in the moment might also drive you to put off tasks you aren’t in the mood to handle.
Then there is also long-term happiness. This can be either a future goal that will bring you happiness or a past accomplishment that you feel pride in.
Unfortunately, as humans, we are incredibly prone to leaning into the desire for momentary happiness at the cost of long-term happiness. We want immediate satisfaction, even when that’s at the expense of an important goal.
When you find yourself avoiding a task, ask yourself whether your momentary happiness is more important than your long-term goal.
The First Three Steps to Take to Combat Procrastination
Change your internal dialogue.
This is really the foundational step toward changing your habits with procrastination. We tend to fulfil our own expectations of ourselves for better or worse. Monitor how you speak to yourself and notice if you say things to yourself like, “I’m always late. I always procrastinate. I’m such a procrastinator.” If you notice you are doing this, you are likely self-fulfilling your own prophecy. So pay attention to the labels you assign yourself and don’t identify with labels you don’t want to own.
This also goes for talk of you should do something. We tend to resist the things we should do. Instead of telling yourself you should do something, remind yourself that you want to do it because it’ll help you reach your goal.
Practice awareness of your most productive times.
Each of us has a circadian rhythm and informs our energy levels throughout the day. For some of us, that means we pop out of bed ready to take on the day. For others, that means we get a rush of energy at night like electricity that compels us to tackle projects. Whatever it is, it is important to note that about yourself and prioritise your most important tasks to coincide with when you’re in the zone.
Take care of your body as well as your mind.
Movement has everything to do with your energy levels and therefore your motivation to finish projects. Ensuring that you get the right amount of exercise can make a huge difference in overcoming procrastination. Getting moving will help your body stay healthy and get blood flowing to your brain. Also getting out of the house and focused on something else for a bit can help lend inspiration for when you return to your work.
Often learning how to overcome procrastination is having an honest talk with yourself about your priorities and commitment to reaching your goals. The great news is that while your inner dialogue might be the problem, it can also be the solution.
A great example of this is a business that is struggling with sales. You might find yourself saying, “Oh, it’s the economy,” while your competitor next door is raking in sales. They’re in the same business in the same area. What’s the difference?
When you find external reasons for why you aren’t meeting your goals, you won’t take action to make a change. At the same time, it is important to recognise that there will be failures, but they’re part of the journey to success. Don’t let a setback set you completely off course. Each small step you take towards your goals is still forward movement.
If you recognise that you have power over your own life to make these changes, you can beat procrastination at its root source.