Is there a pile of tasks on your desk that ‘one of these days I’m going to…’ but ‘one of these days’ never happens?   Or do you find yourself with so much to do but little desire to tackle any of it?   Are you a master of deluding yourself into thinking that the reason you haven’t made that difficult phone call is a lack of time, rather than the real reason, you feel uncomfortable making it? 

If this is you, you have found yourself caught in the great procrastination trap.  Procrastination can lead to increased stress and a lack of fulfilment so why do we do it?

Failure Focus – We choose to focus our thoughts on ‘what if I fail’, which can render us powerless to act.   It undermines confidence and self belief and we comfort ourselves with the notion that ‘if I don’t attempt something I can never be accused of failing’ which is true, but neither can you experience the emotional highs gained from achievement and success.

Comfort Blanket Syndrome – Taking action may at times require us to leave our world of familiarity, safety and security.  Yet when we do something very different or new, it can feel strange initially.   The feeling of uncertainty can see us reaching our for our comfort blanket of previous habits and behaviour and withdrawing from the new challenge.

Frozen by Feelings – We can sometimes allow our feelings to dictate whether we take action or not.  So we wait until we feel motivated or fell creative.  Put simply, emotions can take our actions hostage.

Illusions of Activity – You may appear busy, but busy doing what exactly?  Planning, discussing and researching may all be very necessary but there comes a time when only action will do.

Conned by Complacency – ‘There’s no rush’ ‘I’ll start it next week’.  There is always some reason to put off taking action today.  As time passes we delude ourselves into believing there’s plenty of time whilst we drift along in a haze of complacency.

So what’s the solution to this, to ensure that we and our colleagues avoid the procrastination trap?  There’s no single solution but the following will certainly help:-

Don’t confuse activity with effectiveness.  Are you filling time with lots of activity in order to avoid addressing the real issue?    Ask yourself if what you’re doing is really necessary and worthwhile.

Just start it.  Quit worrying about completing the task, just start it.  Action brings motivation.

Tackle the ‘nasties’ first.    ‘Nasties’ are tasks that you are not looking forward to doing.   By delaying acting on them you allow stress to build up at a subconscious level.  Tackle them first and then once they’re out of the way, you’ve got something to look forward to.

Reward your progress.  Give yourself mini rewards when you complete a task.  Just finished a ‘nasty’?  Then give yourself permission to start a pleasurable task.

Develop double vision.  Visualise what will happen if you delay taking action.  What will the consequences be?  How do you feel about that?  Now visualise the task successfully completed and imagine how you’ll feel.  Allow these positive emotions to spur you into action.

Make a date with a mate.   Ask a colleague to ‘act as your conscience’.  Make yourself accountable to someone you can provide you with moral support and encouragement.   

Learn to SUMO (Shut Up, Move On).  Constantly replaying reasons not to do something inside your head?  Say to yourself ‘it’s time to Shut Up the dithering and Move On to the acting’.  Decide what you need to do and get on and do it!

Perhaps it’s time we all learnt and lived by the Latin phrase Carpe Diem, meaning ‘seize the day’!