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The one thing to do if you catch yourself procrastinating

And it is not about removing distractions, declaring ‘work time’ to keep everyone away, or to change the scene for inspiration.

I have a love-hate relationship with procrastination. Probably we all do, but I suppose the ‘love’ part for you is that you get to do all sort of creative or semi-useful things you wouldn’t have scheduled time for otherwise. :)

At its core, procrastination is when you tell yourself you should be doing something, but you just can’t get yourself to do it. Again and again.

This can equally be applied for a side project, a career goal (a specific assignment, promotion, or role), or a life goal (running a marathon, traveling for a year, learning to cook). However, I am not talking about doing the dishes, paying the bills or going to the doc for annual checkups. That’s just called adulthood.

If you catch yourself procrastinating, stop beating yourself up. Instead, ask yourself useful questions, such as: ‘Do I really want this?’ ‘Has anything changed since I set this goal for myself?’ Am I worried that I might fail? Can I get someone else to do this?

Life and goals evolve

Sometimes you thought you wanted something because that would make you feel happy, proud, accomplished, successful, etc. But sometimes things change and you no longer need to chase a goal that doesn’t serve you anymore. I learned to ‘love’ procrastination once I realized that it can help me re-evaluate my priorities and focus on things that will make my life significantly better. Especially when I realize that I have been chasing someone else’s goals.

The fear of failing

When we are genuinely interested in something or when we are clear on the ‘why’ (and that is meaningful enough), procrastination disappears and we feel energized by doing the task. Often times you don’t even notice the time or anything else that might be happening around you. The one exception is when you set out to do something important and meaningful, but the fear of failure holds you back. I am not a coach, so I won’t dive into this here.

You don’t have to do everything

For some reason, we tend to believe we have to do everything ourselves. ‘If I can do it then I should do it’ - I hear myself say sometimes. When you catch yourself procrastinating, and it has nothing to do with deep, existential questions as above, think about outsourcing. Especially if you tend to spend more time procrastinating than the time the task takes. You would be surprised how many things can be easily outsourced (and I will write a separate post on that).

Next time when you are procrastinating, ask yourself why you are dreading the task. Instead of beating yourself up, either re-prioritize what you focus on (ideally the things that make a meaningful difference in your life or work), or give the task to someone else.

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