I'll get to it
And other lies you tell yourself
Be honest: Do you struggle to get things started or completed*?
(Asking for a friend.)
Do you tell yourself, “I’ll get to it,” yet find yourself binge-watching an entire season of Stranger Things instead?
You’re not alone.
According to Psychology Today, procrastination is a common human tendency. For the occasional offender, finding the willpower to buckle down and power through is usually enough to boost productivity and focus on accomplishing the task at hand.
But for the 20 percent of U.S. men and women who are chronic procrastinators, psychologists have discovered that it has nothing to do with time management.
Chronic procrastinators use it as a coping mechanism to avoid an unpleasant task, doing something else that gives them a temporary mood boost.
But the shame and guilt of not doing what we should be doing can make us procrastinate even further, creating a vicious, self-defeating cycle.
And what makes procrastination so harmful is that the tasks don’t go away.
Eventually, you’re left with the tasks to complete, the second helping of the negative emotions, plus the added stress of a time constraint.
So what’s a chronic procrastinator to do?
The next time you don’t feel like doing something, try these three tips:
1. Acknowledge why you’ve been avoiding it
You’re not lazy; you’re scared.
When we procrastinate, we avoid the unpleasant feelings accompanying the task. Procrastination is rooted in fear—of failure, of success, or of not being perfect—and fear is a powerful emotion. We feel anxiety when we’re pushed to do things that make us uncomfortable, so naturally, we avoid them at all costs. But when we try to get rid of the negative feelings by, say, scrolling our social media feeds, it’s only a temporary fix. By facing your emotions, you can begin to manage them.
2. Forgive yourself for procrastinating
Science has found that people prone to procrastination are less compassionate toward themselves. So one of the most effective things that procrastinators can do is to forgive themselves for procrastinating.
Researchers say employing self-compassion works because procrastination is linked to negative feelings. When you forgive yourself, you’ll reduce the guilt you feel about procrastinating, eliminating one of the primary triggers for procrastinating.
3. Just get started
Researchers say that most of us mistakenly believe that our emotional state has to match the task at hand. But the truth is that you’ll rarely feel like it, nor does it matter.
They recommend ignoring how you feel and focusing instead on what the next action should be. For example, rather than telling yourself, “just do it,” which can be overwhelming, say, “just get started.”
Even completing a relatively small action will help you make progress and feel better about the task, increasing your self-esteem and reducing the desire to procrastinate to make yourself feel better. Plus, this simple step shifts your attention from your emotions to action so you can finally finish what you started.
And speaking of getting things done, make sure they’re the right things.
The savviest leaders understand that by focusing on doing things others miss, won’t, or don’t, they’ll make huge strides.
ICYMI, in my recent Forbes article, I shared five simple swaps to help you level up in your career.
P.S. When I’m not writing this newsletter or procrastinating on finishing my forever-a-work-in-progress first novel, I’m a social media ghostwriter. (Yep, that’s a thing). I help founders craft their stories to communicate and connect better, magnifying their reach and impact. (Think personal branding and thought leadership.) Learn more here.
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*Like, say, that psychological thriller novel you’ve been “working on” for years. Or maybe that’s just me. 🙄
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