It’s incredible how much energy we can use to avoid or put off doing something, don’t you think? Just how much energy do we use to procrastinate?
Consider all the energy that goes into:
- The tug of war between wanting and not wanting to do something.
- Doing something else instead. Of course that something can be good or useful in itself, yet it’s still putting off what needs to get done.
- Feeling guilty, irritated or agitated about not doing the thing that needs to get done
- Creating reasons to justify why we didn’t do thing that needs to get done!
- Feeling anxious and stressed as a deadline rapidly approaches.
- Berating or criticising ourselves and making ourselves feel bad.
Procrastination consumes our energy reserves, steals our time and can result in lower self belief and self efficacy, lower productivity and even a weakened immune system and depression.
Procrastination is an emotional regulation strategy and the trigger is often unconscious.
Procrastination has nothing to do with being lazy. Sometimes it’s a lack of motivation, for example, when we’re faced with a boring or repetative task. Most often though, procrastination is connected to something deeper inside – generally it’s connected to a belief.
Now you probably know people who procrastinate, yet often succeed in reaching their goals despite putting things off to the last minute. This simply reinforces a belief that their strategy works, so making it more likely to happen again. This is a stressful, anxiety generating and risky approach. Creatives and artists can look like they’re procrastinating over doing a piece of work, yet they’re likely to be in the design stage, processing and percolating ideas. This is how I work, I mull things over and do some preparation work over a period of time and then jump into work near the deadline.
All strategies have a trigger. All behaviour is preceded by emotion or feeling that is triggered by a pattern of thoughts.
Therefore, it’s important to explore what’s going on underneath the procrastination. In truth it’s scary, literally! Very often procrastination is underpinned by some kind of fear.
6 types of fear that lie behing procrastination and what to do
Fear of failure – the belief that things have to go just right or not go at all. This is common for perfectionist’s. To deal with this, imagine you’re a scientist who’s doing an experiment and gathering data for better results and reframe your thinking to, “there is no failure only feedback”.
Fear of success – is ususally an unconscious pre-set limit installed earlier in life, often in childhood. It requires us to build our self worth and a change our belief about what we deserve, which is easiest to do using self hypnosis or working with a therapeutic coach.
Fear of stretching our comfort zone – our brain is trying to keep us safe so it chooses the familiar because it can predict the outcome – even if we find it boring! Do one small thing every day that’s different or new to gently condition yourself to take risks.
Fear it will take a long time – many of us nowadays, expect things to happen right now and our attention spans has shrunk. We might fear commitment or getting stuck in something we can’t get out of. If this is so, we need to find the ‘why’ and deeper value behind whatever we’re doing.
Fear of other people’s expectations – It’s hello to the people pleasers here! Look inwards instead of out, and first of all be true to you, value your perspective and focus on ‘Why is this important to you?
Fear of how much there is to do – big picture thinkers easily get stuck in overwhelm and don’t know where to start because they see connections everywhere. It’s important to get everything onto paper and chunk down into smaller tasks.
How to stop procrastination
To stop our procrastination habits, we need to believe that another strategy will be more effective in getting our desired results. We humans often resist things that reveal our fallibilities. A good place to start is with awareness and noticing the emotions you’re experiencing and allowing yourself to feel what you feel, knowing that your emotional state is always in flux.
Procrastination is a stuck state with a lot of inertia. So to move out of it, we need to first move to a more neutral state. It’s more difficult to leap straight into being motivated and inspired. Start by taking a break, change your environment and allow your senses to absorb new information, put on some music and dance or do some exercise to release the inertia from your body and it will help shift your mind.
Identify what’s behind your procrastinating behaviour. Learn how your motivation works and how to set yourself up to able to motivate self long-term.
In NLP we have several techniques to stop procrastination including chaining anchors which is a great way to shift out of the inertia of procrastination into motivation via two intermediate ‘carrier’ states. There are also processes for removing limiting beliefs and removing the emotional charge from things.
As people, we’re motivated differently. Some of us are motivated by moving toward what we want and some by moving away from what we don’t want and most of us are a mixture of both to some extent or another.
“Towards” motivation is the “carrot” approach, where someone enjoys the benefits of doing something and the nice things that happen.
“Away from” motivation is the “stick” approach where someone needs to feel the pressure and consequences of not doing something.
We can use this information to get ourselves out of procrastination and feeling stuck with no options.
NLP process for removing procrastination.
- Think of something you’re currently procrastinating on, which you haven’t acted on yet, but you could have.
- Consider it for a couple of minutes. Think about and feel how much stress the putting off of the thing has already caused you since first knew you needed to do it. Really feel the feelings and write them down.
- Now think about how much stress it’s currently causing you – the time you spend thinking about it or trying to not to think about it, or feeling guilty or being reminded about it by yourself and others. Really feel into it and write it down.
- Next consider how much discomfort it will cause you if you continue to do nothing for a few weeks or months more and again, write it down.
That’s the stick.
Now for the carrot.
- For a minute or so feel into how good it will be once you’ve taken action and put that something behind you. Really feel into it!
- Write down the first step you can take and, importantly, how long it will take you.
- Now compare the cost of taking action, in terms of energy and effort, with the cost of not taking action.
- Next write down when you’ll do the thing – immediately is best or at least the same afternoon.
- When you’ve done the thing, notice and really feel the feelings, write them down to read as a reminder for the future.
Resolving Procrastination Longterm
We all have things we don’t like doing and we all procrastinate. Our brain naturally looks for the easy rout in any situation and anything that will give us a dopamine reward.
Longterm to reduce our perceived need to procrastinate, we need to grow our self awareness, master our mindset and improve our self- regulation. It’s also important we have a clear purpose and vision that internally motivates as extrinsic motivation never works long term. Remember also to let go of things like perfectionism, people pleasing and over thinking and of course reward yourself for progress!
While there’s no magic wand for stopping procrastination, it’s always easier when we enlist the cooperation of and integrate the conscious and unconscious mind together. This is where NLP can really help.
What’s one thing you’ve been procrastinating on?
As you think about it, what are the feelings and the thoughts that come up inside.
With your knowledge from this blog, what can you do to move into a new direction now?
If you’d like to know more about how NLP Coaching can help you be more motivated, have more energy or self belief more of the time then book a discovery call.