5 Mindhacks for Overcoming Procrastination: Part 1
Procrastination is a hard lesson. We've all experienced it at one point of another, and some us deal with it on regular basis. In minor form, procrastination is something that can be overcome with will power and rousing internal pep talks. In more chronic forms, however, it prevents us working towards or achieving goals, dreams and ambitions.It prevents us truly living.There's a lot of practical tips out there that promise to help us overcome procrastination, but sometimes turning off the TV or not checking your email every 30 seconds is much easier said than done.So let's go to the root. This article isn't going to focus on the 'how to' details of overcoming procrastination, it's going right to the some of the core beliefs and resistance that feed procrastination.Procrastination is complicated, and this article doesn't address all of the beliefs underlying procrastination by far. As a self-confessed procrastinator though, I've found these thoughts and techniques incredibly helpful at one point or another.
Calm the inner perfectionist:
"You need to do it as an amateur before you can do it with some skill" - Naomi Dunford, Ittybiz"People become who they are. Even Beethoven became Beethoven." - Randy Newman Shh, don't tell our internal perfectionists, but the above quotes let us off the hook, and tell an important truth: we all have to start somewhere. If we pick up a tennis racket for the first time, and have never touched one before, it's going to take a good few lessons, a lot of looking silly and some really frustrating missed shots before we can hold our own in a game. This applies to any new project, venture, hobby or idea.When we have new ideas, start new projects or take up new hobbies, the perfectionist might say something like this: "OK, look at everyone around you. Now be like them. If you make a mistake, you are obviously no good at [insert task here] and doomed to fail."Not exactly motivational stuff.Here is what the realistic voice might say: "OK, this is new. Look at everyone else around you. Learn from them, but don't try and be them because you're not them - you're you. You will make mistakes, big ones and small ones, but that's great because we learn things from our mistakes that we'd never have known otherwise."In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about how it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in something. Anyone you see who is an expert in their field: a physicist, a jazz player, a marketing guru, a bestselling writer - at some point, they all started at hour one. We get to see the shiny, finished product, but they had their own trips, rejections and embarrassing moments along the way (read On Writing by Stephen King for an example).Your perfectionist has some useful things to say and can provide helpful critique of what you're doing along the way, but nurture and develop the realistic voice and you're far more likely to take the first steps towards accomplishing your task or goal.
Accept you are only human
"Of course I can accept I'm only human" you're thinking. But have you ever wished there were more hours in the day? Ever felt swamped by everything you have to do? Ever had those "I should be able to juggle all these things" thoughts appear at those times?24 hours. That's all we have, and around 8 of them are spent sleeping. So we have a maximum of 16 hours (at a push - don't forget the pjamas and teeth-brushing routine) to do everything that we want and need to do.Sometimes that doesn't feel like enough. During those times, we can spend so long thinking about what we need to do that we lose our efficiency and consequently don't get nearly as much done as we'd like to.The more work we do, the more it might feel like we don't need to have downtime. However, the more work we do, the more we need (and deserve) downtime. If we don't get that downtime, eventually our mind or body will rebel. We get sick, we're unable to think straight, things start feeling pretty flat. We start to feel like we're surviving rather than really living.When we have a lot on and are feeling resistance to getting it all done, that's a sign we need to take a break. "But look at my task list!" you cry. Although it's counter-intuitive, taking a break (a proper break - be daring and go for at least an hour, or even a whole evening) helps us go back to all the tasks with less dread and more peace.The resistance comes up when parts of us want to take a break, and they are in conflict with the parts that want to press on. By scheduling a break of an hour or an evening, you're telling the former parts that you're listening to them, and reassuring the latter parts that this doesn't mean you're slacking off entirely, it's beneficial.