Do you procrastinate, delaying something for long periods of time because you just dread starting?
Do you leave things until the very last minute, to then complete them in a panicked hurry?
I used to have terrible problems with procrastination. Throughout my second year of university it was so bad that I actually started and finished every single paper or assignment entirely the night before it was due.
I remember spending all night at the library and then printing something off in the early hours of the morning to literally run to class and hand it in. Not so fun.
Procrastination comes in many shapes and sizes. Maybe you put off going to the bank for days, or you avoid cleaning the kitchen. Maybe you stress for 5 days over a phone call that will take 5 minutes. Maybe you – like I did – pull all-nighters to cram for exams and complete assignments at the last minute.
This post describes a perspective you can adopt to help with procrastination. It will shift your mindset and can help you stop putting off tasks.
Also check out how to cure procrastination in just 10 days.
Faulty perception and the “monster in your mind”
Have you ever noticed that once you actually start working on a task – even one you’ve avoided for a long time – it’s never as bad as you expect?
Why is this?
Because when you are fully engaged in a task and your mind is immersed in it, the mind cannot also create a story about the task.
The mind plays all kinds of tricks on us, projecting worst-case scenarios into the future and turning the task into a monster in our mind.
Before you start on something you imagine how terrible and hard it’s going to be, so you avoid it altogether.
But once you’re immersed in doing something it usually isn’t that hard. It’s not that bad. The hard part is getting over the hump of starting.
Nothing great is ever achieved without at least some difficulty. To enact meaningful action in your life, you’re going to have to endure periods of discomfort.
But here’s the important point: the discomfort is almost never as bad as your mind makes it out to be.
There is the actual task, and then there is the horrible thing you turn it into in your head. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that these are the same thing.
The task and the monster in your mind are not the same thing.
For example, sitting down to write is never actually that hard once you get into it. The same goes for studying for an exam, doing a chore, running an errand, and so on.
It’s the nature of the mind to build things up out of proportion and to project negatively into the future. Your mind creates a monster out of the task when it’s nothing like that in reality. Don’t confuse the scary projection with the real thing.
Ok great, what do I do?
There are a few ways you can deal with this. Try them out and see what works for you.
1) Use awareness to recognize when this is happening
It’s been said that “Awareness is transformative in itself” and I do think this is true. At the very least, awareness of a problem is always the first step in fixing it.
2) Visualize the task as accurately as possible
Go through the task in your head, step by step, exactly how you want it to happen. Visualize yourself doing it and try to imagine exactly what it will be like. Think about it realistically, focus on specifics. Simply making an effort to view the task objectively can make it much less daunting. Visualization is key to making your dreams a reality.
3) Start without thinking
Begin the task without out thinking about it at all, as best you can. If you hardly think before you begin, then you’re not giving your mind the chance to turn the task into a monster in the first place. Regular meditation will help you to disengage from your thoughts. If you can effectively start without thinking, the task may even be done before your mind can get to it at all.
What do you think? Do you have problems with procrastination? How do you deal with it? Let us know in the comments section below.