We have places to be, things to do, decisions to make. Most of the time we race through life but sometimes our subconscious conspires against us and then we hit a wall. That is the time in your life when your home, your desk and car are probably spot clean, your cupboard tidy, your book collection sorted in alphabetical order and you are thoroughly up to date with the viral videos on social media. There is a word for it: Procrastination.
It happens to the best of us – I’m looking at you Leonardo da Vinci (16 years for the Mona Lisa, really?) and the Dalai Lama. Find more famous procrastinators here. Also, if I’m completely honest with you, it took me four weeks to complete this post. We all do it at times – usually when there’s something important to do or a big decision to be made, we just can’t seem to bring ourselves to do it. It is when we feel a bit out of our depth, the task is not playing to our strengths or we lack confidence, we procrastinate the most. Find more reasons here.
The tricky thing about it is that we not only procrastinate on little tasks, chores, Uni assignments or work projects, we do it with our life. This is the easiest way to get stuck in a rut. Not happy in a relationship, in the wrong job, not loving your routine.… People revert to what they know rather than an uncertain but potentially much happier, authentic future scenario. So, we keep putting off making the decision, taking the first step or completing the task.
Sure, there are advantages to procrastination. Studies found that postponing some tasks and decisions give your subconscious the opportunity to work on it in the background, which in turn can help you make better and more creative decisions later on. Check out Adam Grant’s Ted Talk on “The surprising habits of original thinkers”. The downside is we can’t actually enjoy the pleasurable things in the meantime. Research also shows that chronic procrastinators perform much weaker than their proactive counterparts on every level.
Procrastination is really a self-inflicted wound that not only makes us feel restless and guilty, it gradually chips away at the most valuable resource in the world: Time. And that can make us unhappy.
So, what can you do to get out of the rut?
1. Short-term relief – Set yourself a deadline and follow up with a reward that means something to you. In other words: “Just do it and then eat ice-cream!” You’ll find that once you’ve started it will actually flow much easier than you anticipated.
2. Mid-term relief – Schedule time for when you’re allowed to not think about the things that need to get done. That way we don’t have to feel guilty about spending our time and don’t end up in a negative downward spiral where the task gets bigger and bigger in our minds. On the same token, set aside specific times in your diary to be productive. When you give yourself permission to not do it for a certain period of time (personally I love the term “strategic slacking”) you feel more refreshed and capable when it’s time to get sh*t done.
3. Long-term relief – Find the root of your procrastination habits and use it in your favour. Does it always happen to you because you don’t feel confident? Are you a perfectionist and you set your standards so high that you can never reach it? Or are you just very easily distracted? Knowing what triggers your procrastination will make it easier to face the problem head on and help you develop coping mechanisms.
The good news is, there’s many ways to manage procrastination so you can get more time back in your life, and ultimately achieve a higher level of happiness. Chances are you’re probably a procrastinator if you’re still reading this article, so how about you give our suggestions a try.