- life seems to us an infinite list of obligations that we will never be able to fulfill;
- we are not realistic about time, we are always late, we struggle to realize the time that passes and it takes us to do things;
- we don’t set specific dates to start a project;
- we do not have clear objectives and values;
- we feel dissatisfied, frustrated, depressed;
- we fear to be criticized if we are wrong;
- low self-esteem and assertiveness prevent us from being productive.
To get momentary relief
Procrastination, contrary to popular belief, is not the problem, but the symptom of other difficulties. We procrastinate because we fear that something will threaten our value and our independence; we are afraid of failing and being imperfect, of having to do the impossible, of being overwhelmed.
We completely identify with our work, become ruthless judges of ourselves and take refuge in perfectionism.
Every little mistake is a tragedy because it reminds us of our imperfection, causing us great stress which we simply reduce by procrastinating.
In doing so, we get temporary relief, and then feel even worse, more anxious, depressed, insecure, with even more fear of failure and greater need to procrastinate as a momentary escape.
We learn that procrastination has its meaning and we are ready to start again in this vicious circle until we can replace it with more effective and functional methods for dealing with personal value work.
Procrastination can also be an indirect way to rebel against an authority (when we feel victimized), or a way to protect ourselves from the fear of success (sometimes it can be as frightening as failure, because it can reduce free time, friendships, relationships).
Let’s change our internal dialogue
We often tend to procrastinate only to rebel against a too rigid and authoritarian language that we use towards ourselves.
If we are going to do something by repeating that we “must” do it, we are in a position of conflict: we must , but we don’t really want . And then we get stuck, mentally, physically and emotionally.
An internal dialogue that implies the idea of choice, commitment and dedication, instead leads us to the realization of our objectives, strengthens us and no longer makes us feel victims.
The language of the producer will go with the habit of strengthening, to the detriment of that of the procrastinator.
- we replace “I must” (stress message, because it implies that we are forced) with “I choose”, “I decide” (we move towards a goal with responsibility);
- “When can i start?” it is much better than “I have to finish”;
- instead of reaffirming to ourselves how big and important a project is, let’s say “I can take a small step”;
- “I can be perfectly human” works much more than “I must be perfect”;
- “I don’t have time to have fun” does not motivate, much better “I have to take time to have fun”.
If we use language focused on results and not on criticism, on choice and not on duty, on what it is instead of what it should be, our body and our mind will collaborate providing the necessary energy, freeing us from the unnecessary suffering of past and comparisons with a hypothetical future.
Having fun to work better
We all need moments of leisure and relaxation that can recharge us both physically and mentally, these moments are essential for obtaining quality work and minimizing the chances of procrastinating.
In order to work better, we must stop putting off life and fun, we must fully live our days. For this, it is important to plan free time and leisure, without guilt.
As children, we learn by playing. Growing up, we forget the importance of the protected space of the game, capable of creating physical and mental states that favor learning, creativity, intuition and problem solving.
It is easier to work productively if we know that something beautiful awaits us; instead, imagining ourselves alone and isolated because overworked does not bring good results. Knowing that we will go out with friends, play tennis, have dinner in that restaurant, motivates us to engage intensely in our work activities.
Leisure and quality work go hand in hand, one reinforces the other, in a virtuous circle that only brings benefits, because when the conscious mind is focused on other than work, we leave room for creativity and the subconscious, to find original and more efficient answers and solutions.
Tools to overcome blockages and fears that prevent us from acting
There are 3 great fears that block us: fear of being overwhelmed; fear of failure and fear of not finishing something. What can we do to overcome these fears?
- Having a 3D vision of the project we want to carry out, an overview and using an inverse calendar , which starts from the deadline of our project and goes backwards, up to the present moment and allows us to focus on the beginning. We will know exactly where to start, when and to whom to delegate and when we can rest. The project will be divided into small, manageable and affordable parts.
- Take advantage of worries by making them work for us. Everything that worries and brings anxiety dissolves if we have a plan to deal with potential threats. We need to think about the worst that can happen, how to avoid it, and what to do in the present moment to increase the chances of reaching our goal.
- Continue to start: to combat the fear of not being able to finish a project or a job, we continue to ask ourselves: “When can I start?”. After all, all the big projects are completed with a series of beginnings.
To understand the mechanisms that block us from acting, it is important to always be aware of our internal dialogue. Here are some alarm bells that must ring when we say to each other:
- “I need to prepare a little more before I can start”: remember that too much preparation can be transformed into procrastination;
- “At this rate I will never end”: it is better instead to keep the focus on work and not on self-criticism;
- “I should have started earlier”: we appreciate having started instead;
- “Once this job is finished, there will be another one immediately”: we keep the activity we are engaged in separate from any future decisions;
- “This doesn’t work”: the difficulties we encounter are not a reason to give up, they are an opportunity to field problem-solving skills and creativity;
- “I need a little more time”: if there is a deadline it must be respected, to the detriment of our perfectionism.
Non-planning, planning only entertainment and thirty minutes of focused work
This tool provides for the use of a weekly calendar in which we are committed to programming only recreational activities (socializing, sports, reading, etc.) and routine daily activities (going to work, eating, courses, appointments previously taken) for have a realistic picture of the time to devote to work.
If we plan only moments of leisure, we will be unconsciously more enticed to get to work, because we are more aware of the limited time available.
Only once we have planned the weekly entertainment, will we be able to add a register of uninterrupted productive work, in which we will keep track of the focused work done, with a constraint: to work only for blocks of thirty minutes.
Initially, it will be only one block per day, this to overcome inertia and focus on starting. It is important that we only record the work actually done (it should not be planned, but reported): a register of leisure alternating with quality work.
Work in a state of flow and creativity to work better
Flow is an inner state of calm and great concentration, in which we are less prone to distraction and our brain works better; the logical and rational part is silenced to leave room for inspiration and creativity.
There are strategies that help to achieve this state easily; by learning them we can work with more energy, enthusiasm and efficiency. Two minutes a day of meditation are enough to reach a state of flux, in which new neuronal models replace bad habits consolidated in our brain.
When our mind is in a creative state, we unlearn to procrastinate and learn to work in the flow. If we are not yet experts in meditation and relaxation techniques, we will need two weeks to practice at least twenty minutes a day, after which two minutes will be enough to focus on the present, letting go of the past and worries about the future.
The flow state provides a magical bridge from anxiety to tranquility, from concern to protection, from survival mode to the creative state of calm.
How to optimize progress and continue to reinforce positive habits
Any program that can change our habits must be personalized and adapted to our needs. It is normal that there are obstacles and moments of crisis, the important thing is to have the right tools to face them and turn them into opportunities.
We must not criticize or judge ourselves, but we must channel these negative impulses in a direction that reinforces our new positive habits.
When old patterns of behavior arise, it is good to remember that we have alternative ways of acting and that we can strengthen the ability to move from old to new habits. Let us observe and mentally record the thoughts and anxieties that make us take refuge in procrastination.
We can help ourselves by planning the obstacles that we will be able to meet and think about how to react and transform them into new possibilities. In this way we will develop resilience and resistance, we will learn to stay focused on our mission, accepting errors and failures, ready to get up and aware that we are not our mistakes, but we are much more.
We will be more flexible with our goals and turn stress into new energy.
Help and manage other procrastinators in our life
If in our working life we are dealing with people who tend to procrastinate we can help them in many ways:
- acting as consultants, not giving orders. We offer support, let’s help them be realistic, but we don’t decide for them;
- not judging their behavior. Procrastinators are already very inclined to self-criticism, we do not add unnecessary reproaches;
- guiding them towards a condition of choice, security and awareness of what they can do;
- shifting the focus from criticism to appreciation of the results obtained, of the small steps taken in the right direction;
- encouraging them to participate and free expression;
- developing their sense of belonging and involvement;
- leaving them free to choose how to organize their work;
- setting realistic and feasible goals;
- defining precisely their role and the initial steps to be taken.