In her column dealing with life’s challenges, life coach Karen Campbell looks at why we’d rather do anything than what we really should be doing.
We’re all guilty of procrastination: another cuppa, checking social media for the umpteenth time, cracking on with ironing (that’s when it’s definitely getting serious) or, my personal favourite, just plain fannying about.
Everybody procrastinates to a certain extent, but for chronic procrastinators the impact on their lives and their happiness can be immense.
In worst case scenarios, they end up being driven by negative outcomes, missing opportunities and being so engulfed with guilt that they damage relationships with their nearest and dearest. Eventually this results in a low quality of life, with the chronic procrastinator falling deeper and deeper into a pit of underachieving despair.
This is the extreme, of course, but all procrastination, however small, needs to be understood and addressed; the chronic procrastinator started somewhere after all.
Nearly all procrastination resides in fear; we are avoiding doing that thing because it frightens us in some way. This could be fear of failure, fear that it simply won’t work or be good enough, fear of what people might think or that we may get ridiculed or fear of our ability: can we actually do it?
Procrastination is very common in the perfectionists of this world – I bet we all know one. They put themselves under huge pressure to be ‘perfect’ which is often unobtainable, resulting in continuous blows to their self-confidence as they never get anything started due to fear of it not being 100 per cent perfect.
“We all leave things to the last minute and that’s when the risk of things going massively tits up is at its highest. It’s when the printer runs out of ink, the car doesn’t start or the outfit we want to wear is at the bottom of the wash bin smelling of armpits.”
What we have to remember is that being perfect 100 per cent of the time isn’t achievable and, you know what, 80 per cent is fine, more than fine. It’s always best to get things going and for every mistake and error you spot, try to find a positive to balance it out which will eventually lead to a more positive mindset.
Here are few tips to help you deal with procrastination:
Recognise when you’re procrastinating
A good exercise here is to write down what you’re doing and what you should be doing at allotted times. Did you really need to watch all four of those episodes of Come Dine with Me? This can begin to help you understand why you’re putting things off.
Also write next to it what impact you not doing it will have on your life (e.g., I will miss my work deadline and get into trouble or I will have to stay up late now to finish this task and will be tired and stressed tomorrow.) Seeing things in black and white has a huge impact on us as it becomes obvious where we’re wasting our precious time.
So you’ve not gone for that run around the park because you’re ‘too busy’ for the third time in a row? Ask yourself what’s behind that? Is it fear of failure? (Will I be able to run around the park? What if I can’t – how will that make me feel? Will people laugh at me?)
One of my favourite phrases I use with clients is ‘so what?’ and this applies here. So what if you can’t do it, so what if people laugh (and I doubt they will); the main thing is you’re out there and doing it, which is something you should be massively proud of.
Give yourself a task a day and start small
Every morning on the bus I write my ‘three things I need to do today’ list and I try to stick to it (I sometimes only do two, granted – life can get in the way). Start with just one, e.g.: today I need to change the address on my driving licence (arse, I actually need to do that).
Write it down or in your phone and when you’ve done it write a big DONE (yes in capitals and red pen if possible) next to it. Later in the day you can look back and feel suitably smug knowing you’ve done your duties. Once you’ve got one nailed, increase it to two or three.
If you have a large task to do that is just too daunting, break it up into chunks and tackle one at a time.
Associate feelings with end goals
By this I mean that if you did a few laps around the park a few times a week, how would that feel? I’m betting bloody great and your confidence would rocket too. Try to dig deep and ask what’s really stopping you.
Set yourself a goal (and reward)
In four weeks, I am going to have tidied out my wardrobe, sold my clothes and will be buying myself something fabulous with the money. Or tonight I am going to look at my bills and get a fuller understanding of where my money goes and make sure I’m shopping around for the best deal. I am then going to write a list of all the money I’m saving and buy something fabulous.
Give yourself enough time
We all leave things to the last minute and that’s when the risk of things going massively tits up is at its highest. It’s when the printer runs out of ink, the car doesn’t start or the outfit we want to wear is at the bottom of the wash bin smelling of armpits.
Give yourself a break, write a list and plan stuff – you will be so much happier, have more time and feel in control. And if you’re not in control of your life, nobody else will be.
We’re only here once, so less fannying and more doing, people.
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Karen Campbell is a life coach at www.your-dreamcatcher.com. She likes gin, James McAvoy and pretending she's not from Scunthorpe.