We all have times in our lives when we slip into a state of procrastination. Some more than others. Many people procrastinate their whole life!
Often procrastination is due to people wanting to stay in the 'easy and fun' zone instead of working hard or doing chores. They put things off until the very last minute. Tim Urban calls this the 'panic monster showing up' in his hilarious TED talk about procrastination.
Procrastination can also be caused by fear of something, often the fear of the unknown, taking a risk, fear of failure or even fear of success.
Another cause of procrastination is feeling overwhelmed that we have so many things to do and we can't decide what to focus on so we end up not doing any of them and literally hang around doing nothing.
Other times we allow, or even encourage, ourselves to be distracted by 'reactive events' such as emails, phone calls, messages and social media. These reactive events can cause us to spend so much time responding and reacting to things outside of us, instead of being proactive and following what we believe and wish to do. As a result, we don't get anything done that we planned. Perhaps there is a deeper reason why we are allowing ourselves to be distracted, maybe a fear of change, disinterest in working hard or getting something done, and hence we find ourselves once again procrastinating.
Sometimes we keep ourselves so busy with things that don't actually need to be done at that time, such as laundry, cleaning the house, personal errands, shopping, calling a friend, because for some reason we are avoiding doing what needs to be done and the important tasks that will move us forward in some way. Once again, perhaps this is due to fear, or some other emotion causing us to procrastinate.
Personally, I recently found myself procrastinating more than ever. This happened after a recent transitionary period in my life, when one door closed, and another larger and more exciting door opened wider. As much as this seemed exciting and opportunistic, there appeared to be a block of some kind, and I found myself procrastinating! Something was preventing me from moving through this new door at full pace, even though I knew in my heart I wanted to do so. After some reflection, I felt these emotions and struggles arising: making decisions, overwhelm, fear of failure, fear of taking risks and a fear of judgement. I found myself staying busy with random tasks that did not need to be done. All these emotions and randon tasks were causing me to stay stuck in this addicted state of procrastination!
So I decided to reflect even more on procrastination and come up with some tips for myself and for you. I'm writing this article to share with you the 5 tips that helped me to move out of this state of procrastination and towards a more productive, healther and happier life!
This is particularly important if you run your own business, like I do. It's not always easy to plan your days and decide what needs the most attention, espeically if you run your business alone.
My 3 nieces, ages 9, 11 and 12, actually inspired me with this tip as they shared with me that they are following a daily schedule over the summer holidays. Every day they have 1 hour of tech time, 1 hour of exercise time and 1 hour of quiet time. During tech time, they can use any technology, such as watch TV or videos, play computer games, go on Instagram etc. During exercise time, they can do any exercise such as running, gymnastics, badminton, swimming etc. During quiet time they can read or do math exercises. So that takes up 3 hours of their day, and then Daddy takes them out for a main activity each day, and there is no time left for procrastination.
What a great way to stay focused, help us to make decisions on what to do and not get easily distracted.
I decided to use my nieces' example and expand on it a little by creating my own daily schedule and rules. Here’s what I came up with. I hope this helps inspire you as well, particularly if you are ever feeling some procrastination. Feel free to adjust this as you like, to make it more relevant for your work, interests and personal life.
My Daily Rules
Each of these must be done for 1 hour, every working day (4-5 days per week), either as 2 x 30 mins or 1 hour. If there is more time, any of these can be done for longer than 1 hour. Plan the evening before the time of day that each will be done. The actual schedule and order may vary each day, depending on appointments, classes and other commitments that specific day. I left out errands, shopping, house chores, meeting up with friends etc, as I personally don't have any issue doing all those things. They are often done to allow me to continue procrastinating!
My Daily Zones
It is so tempting to have email and social media constantly on and open on our computers and phones all day, waiting for those hits of attention that give our egos a boost and feed our addiction. We think this technology and social media is helping us to feel connected to others, and giving us a sense of receiving or giving attention and love.
However, when we live in this 'reactive' mode that I mentioned above, we often find ourselves living and responding to a world outside of ourselves, and not tapping into our own inner sense of wellbeing or passions. We are using external emails and social media posts to entertain us, keep us busy so we don't need to do the more important things, or make us feel happier or more useful.
Closing email and social media when we are not in that zone will give us time to be with ourselves. This might be a little scary at first, without all the external distractions. However, it's important to free us up to focus on what's important in our life, and stop staying 'busy' with technology and feeding our addiction to distractions and procrastination.
You may wonder if meditation is another form of procrastination since we cannot be productive and get things done when we're meditating. However, I believe it's just the opposite.
If you are procrastinating because of overwhelm, inability to make decisions or fear, meditation can help immensely. Meditation will help you to calm the mind and release negative or anxious thoughts and worries. It can also help you to find more clarity and make better decisions. These positive mind states are wonderful for preventing procrastination and helping us to feel inspired and motivated.
I encourage you to take a few minutes each morning, and even throughout the day, to close the eyes, bring awareness to the breath, and be fully present with your breath. Notice the thoughts, judgements and analysis that arise in the mind, without allowing the mind to follow the thoughts. Be the watcher of the thoughts, as if you are outside of the mind. I wrote an article with some meditation tips for either getting started, or deepening your meditation practice. Hopefully this will help you to feel more peace and calm in your mind, which in turn will hopefully provide you with greater clarity and focus, and prevent procrastination.
This does not mean message your friends on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and whatever other social media platforms you use!
This means get out into your community, join a club, take a class, meet up with friends and share your passions, joys, memories, ideas, inspirations and truly connect with, and inspire each other. Procrastination can often be caused by stagnant mental energy. Engaging with your friends and community can often inspire you to live a more purposeful and meaningful life, and move towards your goals in a positive and proactive manner.
This leads me to our last, and possibly most important, tip of this article.
'Align the actions of your daily life to your purpose' - Tim Urban, the Master Procrastinator TED Talk
This is a pretty bold statement, and a significant ask of you.
Once you start living to your purpose you have the ability to prioritize tasks and actions that align with your deeper purpose. If a task on your to-do list doesn't align with your purpose, ask yourself if it needs to be done at all, or perhaps you could delegate it to somewhere more appropriate, where the task aligns with their purpose.
You may be wondering how to live your purpose, or perhaps how to know if you are already living your purpose, or not as it may be. What does it even mean to live your purpose? How do we discover our purpose?
I wrote an article about how to discover and live your purpose in life. This will help you to define your purpose, and give you some tips on living your purpose. If you truly practice this each day, hopefully you'll find you slip into procrastination less and less every day.
So that's it! Those are my top 5 tips to help you stop procrastinating today! Perhaps writing this article was keeping me busy so I could procrastinate a little more today and not have to look at my to-do list. Or maybe it's part of my Zone #4. Food for thought :)
If you have any questions or feedback on this article, please leave a comment in the comments section below. We'd love to hear from you!
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Author: Sally Mitchell, founder of Body Flows Yoga Retreats and RYT 200 Yoga Teacher leads yoga retreats in the USA, Mexico and Costa Rica. Sally also uses her technology and marketing skills from 20 years working in the corporate world to offer website development and SEO Services for other yoga teachers and wellness practitioners. Living in beautiful Sonoma, California, after 15 years in NYC and San Francisco, her approach as a leader and teacher is holistic, balanced and grounded. She enjoys practicing and studying yoga, hiking and trail running in nature, traveling, writing, blogging and inspiring others to live a more spiritual and meaningful life.