Do you intentionally & habitually put things off?
Why do you think that is?
Is it lack of motivation or, do you just not feel like doing specific tasks?
The Feeling Good Handbook, Book
I shared my thoughts on this huge book here. So, I’m not reviewing it so much as discussing a few chapters that have particularly caught my interest. Like, Chapter 9: Why People Procrastinate, and Chapter 10: A Prescription for Procrastinators.
Chapter 8 (Cognitive Therapy in Action: How to Break Out of a Bad Mood) was the first chapter I covered. If you missed it, you can read up here!
According to The Feeling Good Handbook, people who are extremely successful know that (when it comes to getting stuff done) motivation does not come first. Productive action does.
“You have to prime the pump by getting started whether you feel like it or not. Once you begin to accomplish something, it will often spur you on to do even more.”
Action leads to motivation, which leads to more action.
I’ve found this to be true with household chores, company paperwork, and exercise–Uh-huh…I started exercising! More
to come on that soon here. When I jump right in on those things that I particularly don’t “feel like” doing, as oppose to putting them off, I must say…it IS very, very difficult! At first. But then, I get into a “go mode”, and stuff starts happening! Stuff starts getting done!
With the “wheels in motion”, it feels easier & easier to continue with it and see it through to the finish or end goal. Be it…clean dishes, having everything in order with the “gov’ment”, or a healthier state of being.
So, the question remains…
Why do people procrastinate?
The book lists the following 10 reasons:
- You don’t feel like doing the things you’re putting off. You’re not in the mood.
- You sometimes give up on tasks because they turn out to be more frustrating/difficult than anticipated.
- You’re afraid of failure.
- You don’t want to start something if you feel like you won’t be able to do it perfectly.
- You often feel like you haven’t accomplished anything worthwhile because you’re so critical of your work.
- When you procrastinate, you feel guilty & tell yourself you really should get started. (See more on why “should statements” just don’t work.)
- You sometimes put things off because when you feel annoyed or upset with other people.
- You often agree to do things you don’t really want to do because it’s so hard for you to say “No.”
- You feel that people are acting bossy & making unreasonable demands on you.
- You feel like you have lots of things to do that you’re not very committed to or enthusiastic about.
Which rings true for you?
1, 4, 5 & 6 are for me.
Now that we know the “whys”, let’s discover the “how-tos”!
How do we push past procrastination? How do we get started on stuff we may not even want to be bothered with? What’s the solution?
A more obvious solution may be to, just do it. Just do it! Pick one thing that you can do straight away. And, get started.
Now, you may be saying one of the following:
- Marie, unfortunately that’s not enough! I’m a procrastinator, remember?
- Just “getting started” feels extremely difficult.
- I feel overwhelmed just thinking about that thing.
- I started weeks–months ago, and I dropped the ball…picking it up again feels like a drag.
- But, I don’t want to do it! Like, at all.
I hear ya! Mostly because, I said/say the same things.
Luckily, The Feeling Good Handbook gives us five steps to becoming more productive & successful.
Name one thing you’ve been putting off. Write it down.
Then, ask yourself why you should stop procrastinating.
Make a list of the advantages of putting this task off. Then, list the disadvantages. Now, weigh the advantages against the disadvantages of procrastinating. Which is greater?
Now, make a similar list of the advantages & disadvantages of getting started on that thing today! Again, weigh them against each other to see which is greater.
Once you’ve compared the costs & benefits of getting started today with the costs & benefits of procrastinating, you can decide which option is best.
Your analysis may show that even though you don’t want to do that thing and you don’t “feel like it”, it may still be in your best interest to get started. This insight can help you break the habit of thinking you have to feel motivated or “in the mood” before you do something.
Your analysis may also show you that you don’t want to get started at this time. You may even discover that you never want to do the task you’ve been putting off. And, that’s perfectly fine, as you’ve just made a free choice. Once you make this decision, you’re no longer procrastinating! “Procrastination, by definition, is avoiding a task that you’ve chosen to do. If you decide not to do it, your problem has been solved.” You’re done. No need to read the following steps!
On the other hand, what if you do want to do the task…
Make A Plan
Have you decided from Step #1 that the advantages of starting today outweigh the disadvantages? If so, what exact time will you start?
Write it down.
Can you think of any possible distractions or problems that would conceivably prevent you from following though? If so, write those down.
Now…how will you combat each of these obstacles? Adjacent to each possible problem, list those as well.
Once you’ve decided when to get started and have also considered how you will handle with any problems that may sabotage your good intentions, you’re ready for the next step.
Make the Job Easy
You can make a tough job easy with modest & realistic goals. Instead of grandiose, perfectionist ones. Having “super-great” expectations will put enormous pressure on you. So, don’t try so hard. Shoot for “adequate”, instead of “perfect”.
Another way to make a difficult job easy is to do a little bit at a time.
You may feel overwhelmed because you tell yourself you have to do everything at once. Break the job down into it’s smallest component parts, instead. Focus on one part at a time.
Lastly, work in short spurts. If you have a large task, maybe work on it 15 to 30 minutes a day. Until it’s complete. Once you put in 30 minutes and you feel like putting in 30 minutes more, go for it! The sense of accomplishment (from the first 30 mins.) may motivate you to do more, and you’ll begin to feel more relaxed & productive.
When you think about a task that you’ve been putting off, you may feel upset & want to do something else instead. This is because you’re giving yourself negative messages that make you feel guilty & overwhelmed.
What are your negative thoughts? Write them down.
Once you have them listed, you may notice that it’s not the actual task, but the unrealistic way you think about it that makes you want to put it off.
Next to each negative thought, write down what you could tell yourself instead.
Your negative thought could be the following:
“I’ll never get the closet cleaned. I have so much junk in there. It’s been piling up for years.”
What you could tell yourself instead:
“I can do a little bit. Take out all the old coats that we don’t wear anymore & put them in a bag to send to Goodwill. I don’t have to do it all today.”
Notice how helpful substituting positive & realistic thoughts for automatic negative ones can feel.
Read more about negative messages, distortions and the 10 forms of twisted thinking here.
Give Yourself Credit
Once you’ve started a job you’ve been avoiding, it’s important to give yourself credit. Instead of discounting your efforts. A mental reward will boost your motivation. If you feel like you’ve worked hard, but simultaneously like you hadn’t accomplished anything…
Try writing a list of all you’ve accomplished, at the end of the day. Simply reviewing this list can help you feel better because, you can see you’ve done a great deal of things.
I picked this book up from Amazon. You can purchase it here, if you’re interested in reading.
If you’ve found this post helpful, please share it! Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, email, your blog…where ever you’d like. I thank you for doing so!
I felt like I was procrastinating, just reading a book about procrastination!