This morning I was sitting at my desk preparing to work on my marketing plan for the fall. This project has been on my list for the past month or so, and I was absolutely determined to complete it before leaving for vacation this weekend. However, instead of getting on with it, I found myself distracted by all manner of things. A phone call needed to be returned, a bill needed to be paid, I had the urge to check the weather forecast online, then I was suddenly hungry and went for a snack. An hour later, I still had not started the task at hand.
My behavior, while counterproductive, was also quite normal. At a recent seminar I asked the ProCoach members to share the diversionary tactics they use when facing challenging or unpleasant tasks. In no time they had listed over thirty common procrastination activities. The list included checking email, doing excessive research, surfing the web, reading magazines, doing household cleaning and personal chores, napping, watching TV, talking on the phone and much, much more.
Procrastinating may be normal, but it does not lead to success. If you want to be successful you must develop the habit of taking action. For example, suppose that for one amazing week you were extremely focused and took immediate and effective action on every single task you have been avoiding. How much progress would you make in that week? Now imagine you stayed that focused and productive every week for a year. How much closer would that take you to achieving your goals? Now that would be extraordinary!
Actually, procrastination is not the problem, it is the symptom of a problem. Procrastination is a sign that you are avoiding something you expect to be unpleasant - perhaps due to the effort involved, your distaste for the task or because you fear having a painful experience. When you think about or move towards this unpleasant situation, you enter a field of resistance that pushes back at you. The easy way out is to turn away from the resistance and towards something that is less stressful. This eliminates the resistance, however this also moves you away from your goal. It is as if you are a magnet approaching another magnet pole to pole. When the force fields meet head-to-head it is easier to scoot sideways and reduce the resistance than it is to push ahead in the face of the resistance.
The way to overcome procrastination is to learn to stand in the heat - to advance in the face of the resistance you are feeling. It will feel uncomfortable at first, but in the long term you will generate far more momentum and experience greater satisfaction than if you take the easy way out.
The biggest obstacle to overcoming procrastination is lack of awareness. Until you become aware of your avoidance strategies you are powerless to overcome them. Pay close attention to your thoughts and habitual behaviors when you are facing difficult or unpleasant tasks. If you catch yourself turning away from your goal in order to reduce the tension, turn back and face the resistance head on.
Here are some tips that will help:
||Make a comprehensive list of the things you do to procrastinate. When you feel the urge to do one of these things, identify what you are avoiding and then confront your resistance and take action.
||People often procrastinate because the situation they are facing seems overwhelming or lacks clear definition. It helps to break things down into very small steps and commit to do just one step at a time. For example, with my marketing plan I could have decided to start by developing a brief overview. Or, I could have committed to spend just 15 minutes on the project to break the surface tension.
||Reward yourself. Make an agreement with yourself that when you do a certain thing or reach a certain point you will give yourself a small reward. It seems silly, but this can be very motivational.
||Negative motivators - unpleasant consequences you set for failing to follow through - can also be very effective. For example, announce publicly that if you do not complete a certain project you will give up something you love, do something that would embarrass you or give away a certain amount of money.
||Use your support network. Making a commitment to someone outside of yourself significantly increases the chances you will follow through. I met a salesman once who promised his children he would take them to a movie on the weekend, but only if he made a certain number of sales calls during the week. He felt pressure to make the calls because he did not want to let his kids down, plus they asked him every night how many calls he had made.
||Finally, my personal favorite. Just do it! I once heard Anthony Robbins say, "It is easier to act yourself to a new way of thinking than it is to think yourself to a new way of acting." I totally agree. When I catch myself procrastinating, as I did today, I simply shut off my mind and take action.
Your level of success and achievement is directly related to your propensity to take action. Resolve here and now that when you catch yourself procrastinating, you will suck it up and get on with the task at hand.
To your success!
Andrew Barber-Starkey, Master Certified Coach.
ProCoach Office closed for summer vacation July 24 - 31
At ProCoach we believe vacations are an important part of a balanced life. In order to accommodate the annual summer vacations of our staff the ProCoach office will be closed from Monday, July 24 through Monday, July 31.
Free "7 Success Accelerators" Seminars returning this fall
Last spring Andrew Barber-Starkey travelled throughout BC, Alberta and Washington State presenting an evening seminar called the "Seven Success Accelerators." The seminar revealed the core success principles Andrew has used in coaching over 4000 small business owners, self-employed professionals and commissioned sales people to achieve their goals and dreams. Due to the overwhelmingly popularity of these events they will be returning again this fall, starting in September. The schedule will be published shortly.
A Success Story
Below is an inspiring email received from Calgary ProCoach Member Cameron James.
Please allow me to pass on a quick story about turning an obstacle into an opportunity. ...
As you may or may not recall I had suggested at our last get together that if Danny Lyon could run in the 100 Mile Marathon than surely I could run in a half marathon. Danny jumped on that comment right away and told me of a 1/2 marathon that was happening on July 9th.
At the time I agreed that I would run in the marathon. As I began to think about it I realized that I really had not been training all that much and had never really run that far at one time in a very long time if ever. I looked at the distance of 20.1 KM and thought that it would be a real stretch to make it. About a week before the race I got a pretty bad cold and was not feeling too great by the time race day came.
I thought of all of the reasons why I could not make it and then thought about the one reason why I had to go . It was a commitment I had made to myself and nothing was going to prevent me from showing up and doing my best to complete it.
Short version of the story is that I did run in the race. I completed the half Marathon in 2 hrs 7 Minutes and 34 seconds . It was such a thrill for me to pass over the finish line for many reasons and it gave me such strength to know that I really can accomplish anything I set my mind to.
I have found a new passion and can't wait for the next 1/2 Marathon event. I know now that I can finish it and now will focus on getting in better shape to be the fastest time in my age group. (Goal Setting!)
The point of the story is that it was such a huge win for me personally and it has inspired me to go on and do more.
I challenge all members of our group to follow through with any large challenges that are now standing in your way and hope that by overcoming these challenges you too will enjoy the strength and inner resolve that comes along with it.
Special thanks to Danny for providing the spark of inspiration that I needed.
Director Sales and Operations
Unity Telecom Corp - Calgary
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Andrew Barber-Starkey is a Master Certified Coach residing in Vancouver, Canada. His coaching program, the ProCoach Success System, is designed for entrepreneurs, small-business owners, self-employed and commissioned sales people who want to double their income while simultaneously doubling their time off within 3 years.
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