Procrastination is the biggest time thief.
It is that bad habit that stops us from getting what we want. We all know it, and still – we all do it.
Nowadays, this problem has reached an enormous peak. Around 25% of adults are serious procrastinators.
We all put off the tasks we should have done days ago, but we rarely realize what the consequences are.
Why is procrastination bad for you?
Before I teach you how to overcome procrastination, it’s important to understand why it is so dangerous.
What happens if you consistently procrastinate?
Keeps you from achieving success – procrastination keeps you from taking action. And massive action is key to being successful.
Not only in business, but in your personal life, as well.
A lack of action leads to tons of missed opportunities.
- You didn’t do all the sales calls that you could have – this leads to you not getting as many clients as you could.
- You delivered a project late – you received a late payment.
- You put off registering for a seminar until the last second – you couldn’t book a spot because they were all filled up.
There is one thing all these scenarios have in common – procrastination makes you less successful.
Makes you feel bad – around 46% of people think that procrastination has a very negative impact on their happiness, whereas 18% think it has an extremely negative impact.
Procrastinators tend to suffer internally when they face the consequences of putting off certain actions.
They might also feel bad simply because they fear the consequences of their actions, even if those consequences aren’t real.
Feelings that procrastinators experience range from:
- intense self-condemnation
These people are much more stressed and they tend to have lower-self-esteem.
You lose things – when you start procrastinating, you might see minor negative consequences – like late payment or an unhappy customer.
But, over time, things might start to get even worse – you might lose clients, ruin your reputation and lose your business.
People will stop believing in you and seeing as a reputable person they can trust. Recovering from this might be harder than you think.
Why do we procrastinate?
In the book “Procrastination: Why You Do it, What To Do About it Now,” James B. Burka, Phd. and Lenova M. Yuen, Phd. state the following:
“We think that people who procrastinate in a problematic way do so because they are afraid. They fear that if they act, their actions could get them into trouble.”
The fear of these consequences keeps us from taking action. So, in this way, procrastination acts as a shield that protects us from unpleasant situations.
But there are many types of fears that could trigger procrastination:
Fear of failure – we all experience it from time to time. The real problem emerges when we let fear of failure stop us from taking action.
How many business ideas have you had that you never started working on because you thought they were going to fail?
- Why didn’t you call those new prospects? Because you thought you were not going to close the sale.
- Why didn’t you invest money in your new marketing strategy? You simply thought it wasn’t going to work.
- What fear of failure does is it try to protect us, while actually making our situation worse.
If we invest too much of our time and resources in something and it doesn’t work out, we risk hurting our well-being and survival.
We could have used that time to do something that was way “safer” and “more likely to work.”
Fear of success – why would anyone be afraid of success? Because success also has consequences, just like failure.
Think about for a second.
If you become really successful in your niche, you’ll probably get a lot of attention from the media.
People will be watching every step you take, all the time. And they will be judging you.
You’ll have a lot more responsibilities and you’ll need to be able to deliver all the time.
You might lose that friends that can no longer an relate to you. It might become difficult for you to find time for your family and your marriage, or other relationships might suffer.
You might think you want success, but, in truth, you might be super scared of what you will lose if you achieve it.
Perfectionism – the need to makes things perfect is one of the most dangerous characteristics I person can have in business and in their personal life. Wanting to give you best is great, but you need to be able to set some boundaries.
The truth is, your product will never be perfect – there will be always things that you can improve and fix. But if you’re always putting off the improvement process, you might never release it to the world.
And if you do release it before you think it’s “perfect” – you might feel bad because you didn’t give all you could.
People used to say, “do it poorly, but get it done.”
You’ll always have time to improve.
Why is it so hard to stop procrastinating?
If you ask someone: “Hey, do you want to stop procrastinating?” the chances are, he’ll say “Yes, of course I do.”
But what happens if you actually ask him to do it?
He’ll probably struggle with dealing with procrastination, and he’ll continue to put off tasks that make him uncomfortable.
Why is that?
Lack of intelligence is not the issue – Interestingly, the problem does not have anything to do with intelligence.
95% of people want to stop procrastinating, and they are aware that there will be negative consequences.
Still, they can’t find a solution. It is like something outside of their control is stopping them from taking action.
So, what are the real reasons?
We are controlled by our emotions and instincts – To better understand procrastination and what causes it, you have to have a better understanding of how our brain works.
Back in the 90s, neuroscientist Paul D. MacLean developed the Triune brain theory.
According to this expert, humans have three brains, not one, that coexist and cooperate together.
- The reptilian brain
The oldest of the three controls the body’s vital functions – heart rate, breathing, body temperature and balance. It’s also responsible for our survival and drive to reproduce.
- The limbic brain (also called the emotional brain)
Responsible for our feelings and emotions. It records past positive and negative experiences that affect our current behavior.
- The neocortex, or our so-called logical brain
This is our consciousness and thinking process.
There is a conflict inside us – In some cases, these three brains can also conflict with each other.
We might want to do something logically, but we might not be able to do it because the other two brains are not letting us.
For example, we understand logically that procrastination is bad, but there is nothing we can do about it
It turns out the reptilian brain has the largest influence on us – because it is aimed at ensuring our survival and reproduction. It wants to keep us safe and keep us away from any danger.
The emotional brain, on other hand, dictates our behavior based on habits we have developed, past experiences and the emotions we’re feeling at the present moment.
In the end, we’re left with very little control.
In fact, most of the time, when we think we have made a decision about something logically, we’re just rationalizing the choice made by the reptilian and emotional brains.
The decision has already been made. And it’s out of our control.
Procrastination is triggered by fear – fear is the most powerful of all negative emotions.
Back in ancient times, it served a very important purpose – it protected us from real dangers that could kill us or endanger our lives.
Unfortunately, our emotional system is still not up-to-date for the modern world, a world in which we hardly encounter any real dangers.
Yes, you might fail in business or look bad in front of people. But that’s not the end of the world. You’re still going to find a job and earn a living.
Still, fear protects you from doing things that could risk your survival.
We’ve turned it into a bad habit – if you have been procrastinating for a while now, it’s probably become a habit.
And as we know, habits are hard to change.
Once a habit is formed, it becomes an automatic behavior, triggered by certain events.
So, when you’re assigned a task that is way outside of your comfort zone, it makes you feel anxious, causing your procrastination habit to be triggered.
The key to overcoming procrastination
Fear is what stop us from taking action, but it can also be the key to curing procrastination.
We procrastinate because it feels safer. But what happens if we the risk associated with not taking action increases?
Fear will drive us to take action because we will feel that we are in greater danger when we’re sitting around not doing anything.
But how do you do that? How do you increase your comfort to such an extent that you’re forced to act?
You do this by burning your boats.
How to overcome procrastination by burning your boats
Back in 711 AD, Muslim forces decided to invade the Iberian Peninsula.
The commander, Tariq ibn Ziyad, knew that it was going to be a hard battle. His army needed some extra motivation to win and not run away like cowards.
So, he ordered his men to burn all of their boats.
That way, they didn’t have a way out. They had to win the war or die trying.
So, here’s how you can use this technique to overcome procrastination:
Make success your only option – by burning your boats, you no longer have a way back to your safe place.
Success becomes your only option. This means that you no longer have the luxury of not taking action.
And how do you do that? By committing 100% to your journey.
Think about your “way out,” that escape that keep you around just in case things don’t work out.
- Is it your job that you’re holding onto in case your business doesn’t work out?
- Are you not doing cold calls because you invest in other marketing activities that aren’t bringing you any results?
- Have you decided to improve your product first before engaging with your community and sharing what you’re about to release?
Whatever your safe way out is – get rid of it. These escapes are just keeping you from success.
Make a decision and write your plans down – this one is really important. Most people underestimate the value of a written plan, but this can have a huge effect on your ability to take action.
A written plan serves as a commitment to your journey. And once someone commits to something, he starts to feel the need to be consistent with his decision.
This adds consistency pressure on two sides.
On the inside, you feel pressure to support your decision with action. On the outside, there is pressure to adjust your self-image to the way others perceive you.
So, write your plans down. It works.
Add more details – set up all the action steps that you need to take to get to where you want to be. And the timeframe available for executing these actions.
Setting up deadlines is extremely important – you will never do something if you don’t have an end date.
Share your plans with your community – Public commitments tend to be lasting commitments. When people share their plans publicly, they face a huge social pressure to act on them and be consistent.
The more public your announcement is, the more likely you are to keep your promise.
In the book Influence: the psychology of persuasion, author Robert Cialdini explains how public commitments affect our behavior.
He does so by quoting an experiment performed by Deutsch and Gerard with three groups of students to see which ones would stick to their initial decisions.
They asked the first group to commit publicly, the second to do so privately by writing their plans down, and the third – they didn’t ask to commit at all.
The students who had never written down their initial plans were the least loyal to those choices. At the same time, those who had written them down were much less likely to change their plans.
Interestingly, the students that announced their plans publicly were the most likely to stick to them.
And why is that?
This can be easily explained by the fact that we humans are capable of surviving only as social creatures. Put a man in the jungle, all alone, and he probably won’t last for long.
So, if you make a public commitment and don’t stick to your decision, you fear that you’ll be kicked out from the tribe. Back in the caveman days, this meant death.
So, how do you make a public commitment?
It’s very simple. Tell everybody about your plans – your friends, family, colleagues, employees, clients, etc.
Send an email to your list and announce the launch date of your product. Even if you’re not ready yet.
Once you have made the announcement, you’ll finish and launch it on time. You have to! You have no other option.
Update your community on your progress – this is the next step that allows you to stick to your plan. Constantly update your community on how things are coming along.
Tell them when the next update is going to be and deliver.
This also has another benefit – people will engage with your updates and provide you with feedback on your work.
They will tell you what they like about what you’re doing. They will start craving the next big update.
And that will motivate you.
Because you will finally understand that what you’re doing is not only about you. It’s about them.
Overcoming procrastination is not an easy task. But it can be done.
The first step is understanding what’s causing it. Think about what are you really afraid of.
The next step is simple – burn your boats and make success your only option.
If you ever reach the point of no return, you know you’d find a way to overcome procrastination.