21 Ways of Getting Things Done
In this series we’ll take a look at the reasons people procrastinate and tips on overcoming the habit.
Strategy 1: Banish Guilt
People procrastinate for a number of reasons: overwhelm, discouragement, lack of self-confidence, or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD). Procrastination can also be a type of avoidance behavior, where those who habitually feel powerless take back personal power in the only way known to them—procrastination on tasks they are ordered to do. If you’ve been a procrastinator since childhood, it may have been made worse by overly-authoritarian parents or teachers.
Unfortunately, along with avoidance-based procrastination goes its companions—guilt and shame. We hear the voices of those authority figures telling us that we “blew it again”, “can’t be depended on,” and even all-or-nothing statements like “you’re a complete failure” (usually accompanied by comparisons to a “perfect” sibling or neighborhood example). Long after we’ve grown up, and ostensibly left all childhood voices behind, they can still haunt our memories and affect our self-esteem and confidence.
Guilt and shame have no place in working on becoming the person we were born to be. The truth is, no one gets everything right all the time. You are not a failure just because you have a habit of waiting until the last minute or not following through. One thorough dose of shaming (especially from yourself) and you’re likely to revert to the one defense mechanism you’ve truly mastered: procrastination. Habits are learned; but they can also be unlearned.
Learn to banish guilt by using cognitive reframing, helpful self-talk. Replace self-recrimination with phrases based in reality and framed with facts. For example, instead of saying to yourself, “I screwed up again. I’m a complete loser,” try stating only the facts:
“I spent an hour of ‘me’ time. Now it’s time to put that aside and go to work.”
“There’s no time like the present. I got this!”
If you miss a deadline don’t beat yourself up for it. Yes, there may be consequences; but is telling yourself you’re worthless going to help? Take an assessment of your options. Say out loud (if you’re alone), “Yes, I missed the deadline, and now I’m going to do the next best thing.” Focus on the solutions, not the mistakes.
It feels much better–and is much more effective–when you take blame and shame out of your procrastination habits, and work on realistic solutions.