Stop Procrastination Now! - Anxiety Tip #12
I would have had this article done sooner but I kept putting it off. Just kidding – a bit of procrastination humor. :)
Stop that feeling of impending doom and worry that time is running out (or has run out) on meeting deadlines large and small.
What is procrastination?
Procrastination is putting off tasks that would be better done sooner. The better might be that you or someone else would feel better if the tasks were done sooner, or it might be that the job would be done better, or that your life would be better in some way.
Some people who procrastinate don’t necessarily procrastinate about everything. They may put off working on some deadlines and projects while they are better about tackling other things in a more timely way.
I found so many great quotes about procrastination that this article is going to be quote rich. Here’s the first of them:
“The essence of procrastination lies in not doing what you think you should be doing, a mental contortion that surely accounts for the great psychic toll the habit takes on people. This is the perplexing thing about procrastination: although it seems to involve avoiding unpleasant tasks, indulging in it generally doesn't make people happy.” ─ James Surowiecki
NOTE: since this post has lots of inspiring quotes and an exercise to help you systematically stop procrastinating, I'm offering a free pdf version of this post for you to download:
Anxiety and Procrastination are related in two ways:
- Procrastination can create anxiety.
- Anxiety can create procrastination.
Procrastination can create anxiety.
It’s not hard to see that leaving things until the last minute, or until it’s actually too late to do a good job, or too late to get it done at all—can cause fear, stress, and anxiety.
The entire time between a deadline being set or a “to do” being acknowledged and the accomplishment of the task may be stressful and/or stress can appear and become more intense as the deadline approaches.
And the repercussions of not getting things done that needed to be done can create anxiety.
The symptoms chronic procrastinators exhibit are the symptoms of anxiety: their mind goes around with awfulized versions of bad outcomes, can’t sleep because their mind won’t shut down, feeling hopeless and overwhelmed.
Anxiety can create procrastination.
Anxiety saps your energy and distracts your mind. That emotional and physical draining and mental distraction gets in the way of focusing on what needs to get done and systematically taking the steps to achieve goals and deadlines.
Anxiety also plays into procrastination in another more direct way.
Research shows that some procrastinators are driven by fear of failure or fear of success.
Anxiety is heightened fear.
Fear of failure procrastinators worry what people will think of them when they have tried to accomplish the task so they put off working on the task. If there isn’t enough time to complete the task then they can tell others, and convince themselves, that the poor job done doesn’t reflect on their capability, just on the time for the task.
Fear of success procrastinators fear the repercussions to success such as raising people’s expectations or becoming the center of attention, so they self-sabotage through procrastination.
Procrastinating about a particular “to do” might also be based in other fears connected to trying to accomplish that goal.
You could put off booking a flight because you are afraid of flying, procrastinate about paying bills because you’re afraid you don’t have enough money to pay them all, or drag your feet on responding to an invitation because of social anxiety.
Why you procrastinate
Which of these fit for you?
You may procrastinate because you:
- allow yourself to focus on more “fun” things at the expense of what needs to be done,
- lack self-confidence,
- fear failure,
- fear success,
- are stuck in procrastination habits,
- are intimidated by the task,
- find the task unpleasant, and/or
- imagine the task will be less intimidating or more pleasant in the future (this could be true if something is genuinely going to change between now and then, but usually is magical thinking that backfires).
People who procrastinate tend to:
- overestimate the amount of time left until tasks need to be completed, and/or
- underestimate the time required to complete tasks.
Some motivation to break free of procrastination
Overcoming being distracted by more fun stuff
“Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot fun until you get the bill.” —Christopher Parker
“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” ―Abraham Lincoln
“Delaying gratification is a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with. It is the only decent way to live.” ─M. Scott Peck
Overcoming lack of self-confidence
“To do anything in this world worth doing, we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in and scramble through as well as we can.” ─ Syndey Smith
“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.” —Seneca
“Focused action beats brilliance” – Mark Sanborn
Overcoming fear of failure
“The only difference between success and failure is the ability to take action.” ─Alexandre Graham Bell
“So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don’t sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we’ve satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late.” ─Lee Iacocca
“It was my fear of failure that first kept me from attempting the master work. Now, I’m beginning what I could have started ten years ago. But I’m happy at least that I didn’t wait twenty years.” ─ Paulo Coelho
Overcoming fear of success
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? –Marianne Williamson
Overcoming habitual procrastination
“Confront the difficult while it is still easy; accomplish the great tasks by a series of small acts.” –Tao Te Ching
“How different our lives are when we really know what is deeply important to us, and keeping that picture in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and to do what really matters most.” —Stephen Covey
“The really happy people are those who have broken the chains of procrastination, those who find satisfaction in doing the job at hand. They’re full of eagerness, zest, productivity. You can be, too.” ─ Norman Vincent Peale
Overcoming finding the task intimidating
“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” ─ Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Nothing in the world can take the place of perseverance. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost legendary. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Perseverance and determination alone are omnipotent.” ─Calvin Coolidge
“The best way to get something done is to begin.” ─Author Unknown
Tackle unpleasant tasks now
“Don’t procrastinate. Putting off an unpleasant task until tomorrow simply gives you more time for your imagination to make a mountain out a possible molehill. More time for anxiety to sap your self-confidence. Do it now, brother, do it now.” ─Author Unknown
“Putting off an easy thing makes it hard. Putting off a hard thing makes it impossible.” —George Claude Lorimer
Overcoming thinking it will feel better later
“I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know it has got to get down to work.” ─ Pearl S. Buck
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
– Stephen King
Overcoming thinking conditions will be better later
“ If and When were planted, and Nothing grew.” ─ Turkish Proverb
“Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder.” —Mason Cooley
“When there is a hill to climb, don’t think that waiting will make it smaller.” —Author Unknown
6 Steps to stop procrastinating (Don’t put off working through this list step by step. J)
1. Think of a particular thing you procrastinate about.
- Why do you procrastinate when dealing with that task or goal? (What on the why people procrastinate list fits for you. It could be different for different situations.)
- Can the task be broken down to a doable step?
- What gets in the way of you doing that step? (If it’s that it is too big a step—keep breaking it down further until you get to a doable step.)
- What would help you do that step? (If you need to learn something or get some help in order to take the step – then that learning or asking for help becomes your 1 st step.)
2. Set a reasonable deadline for taking a step toward the goal or task.
- Do a serious timing reality check with yourself if you tend to overestimate the time left until something needs to be completed and/or underestimate the time required to complete a task.
3. Do it.
4. Capitalize on your success
- Give yourself a pat on the back for progress with breaking free of procrastination. (Yeah you!)
- What helped and hindered you with breaking through your previous procrastination tendency with this thing?
- How can the learning help you with other things you’ve procrastinated about in the past or you notice you are currently procrastinating about?
- Figure out the next step toward the goal or task. Set a reasonable deadline for the step. Do it. Capitalize on your success. . . Taking a step at a time until the goal or task is completed.
6. Do a “Yeah me! I did it!” happy dance.
- Ann Silvers