Following up on the very high ratings of my earlier program on Procrastination, we’re doing this special on the topic.
Our four experts on the show were:
Dr. Galardi believes that problem procrastination is largely tied to fear. This can be fear of failure, fear of success, or fear of change.
Of course problem procrastination does not save us from our fears – in fact it often ensures that the eventual repercussions are far worse.
The temptation of procrastination is significant. Hard work may pay off eventually, however procrastination always pays off immediately.
At the same time, even for the worst procrastinator, there are areas of their lives where they are not procrastinating. So it’s not 100% of their lives. There are patterns to procrastination.
Dr. Galardi asks her patients to look inside their bodies and look back in their lives, and notice the feelings they get from procrastination, and find possibly a traumatic memory that also brings up those feelings. Those feelings could be driving the current procrastination.
So step one is, as soon as you start to feel fear or resistance associated with procrastination, to stop, breathe, and keep breathing through the feeling until it fades, and then look for just the next step. Not the whole plan, not the five year plan, just the next step.
When you feel the feeling, stop, respect the feelings, and breathe through them. Don’t let the emotion dictate your action. Then, when you have calmed your mind, identify that next step and take it.
Another tool is to use positive visualization. As soon as Dr. Galardi feels some tension or resistance around something like going to the gym, she stops and contemplates the positive outcome of having had a good workout, and how good she’ll feel.
Her book, The LifeQuake Phenomenon, describes the way to work through the difficulties of life.
As Seneca put it, destiny either guides you or drags you. Or as Rhondalynn Korolak put it in a prior interview, you can overcome fear by finding the passion that is stronger than your fear — it will pull you through.
If you’re not passionate about anything, Dr. Galardi suggests keeping a log where you notice where you experience even mild interest. You will find a pattern that will point you in the right direction. Your lack of passion is probably connected to excessive stress, and it is very fixable.
My second guest was DeAnna Radaj, a cross-functional expert on the inter-related issues of color psychology, Feng Shui, Healthy Home and ecologically friendly living as well as clutter and its effect on your psychology and your procrastination.
DeAnna has found that there are clutter patterns — when there is clutter in the far left corner of a desk or room, that correlates highly with procrastination or blockage with money and abundance. Clutter in the far right involves issues with relationships.
To work through fixing a specific space, DeAnna has people sit down and write about their process — for whatever that means for them. If it’s opening the mail, then write down the process by which they open the mail. Write down how they use, or want to use, their space.
Then it’s a matter of setting up the space to support that process. Don’t set up your desk the way you think it “ought” to be set up, or the way your dad had his, or anything other than what will actually work for you, supporting what you actually do.
Cubicles are very poorly supportive of work. Having your back to the cubicle opening creates stress.
Ideally, your desk should always be positioned at the diagonal opposite of the room from the main entry, facing into the center of the space. This gives you vision and a sense of safety.
Clutter can be both a symptom and a cause of procrastination. Sometimes people use clutter to self-sabotage, to avoid feared outcomes. (A crucial element is having a life goal that can help give you drive and passion.)
Clutter is the physical manifestation of unmade decisions.
DeAnna’s books include Designing the Life of Your Dreams from the Outside In: Easy to apply tips for any space utilizing feng shui and healthy home principles to help facilitate your life’s goals. She also covers aroma-therapy, color psychology, space planning a room, planning space to help teens with ADD and ADHD, and more.
First steps? DeAnna believes you need to start by giving yourself permission to let things go. For each object in your life, ask yourself Do you use it, Do you need it, or Do you love it? If you don’t, it needs to go. This can be very emotional and difficult.
Once you get started, you’ll start looking for things to clear out.
My third guest was Rita Emmett. Her four books include The Procrastinator’s Handbook. She is a recovering procrastinator. It harmed her happiness from childhood, and finally converted. She offers hope — if she can get over procrastination, then anyone can.
Procrastination is not a character flaw, it’s a habit. Habits may be hard to break, however they absolutely can be broken — it’s easier to overcome procrastination than smoking.
Rita’s simple strategy is STING:
[S]elect One Thing
[I]gnore Everything Else
[G]ive Yourself a Reward
By Selecting a Single Thing to work on, we allow ourselves to warm up to the task and start to get momentum. Sticking with one action allows us to save the very large time wasted in switching between tasks.
Timing helps because we can work for just an hour on almost anything. Set a timer, and work on the one task for the hour. Don’t answer calls or emails, just do the task. We’ll never have a whole afternoon or a whole weekend. Don’t wait for the day when you have a block of time — just create a small block of one hour and stick to one task.
Ignore Everything Else — don’t allow distractions to pull you into a task switch. Let the calls go to voice mail. If you get a nagging worry like remembering some key unrelated to-do item, capture it in a list by jotting it down (getting it out of your head) and go immediately back to the chosen single task.
No Breaks — procrastinators are masters at self-distraction and finding excuses to take breaks. As long as the timer is ticking, put off the breaks.
Give yourself a reward once you’ve done the hour. Small rewards for small things. If you like a soda or a snack, hold off until your hour of productive work is done, and use that small enjoyment as a reward.
Rita has the STING strategy on her web site as a free resource.
Another procrastination trap can be perfectionism. Perfectionists can use the goal of making something perfect as a reason not to start. “If I don’t have the time and energy to do it perfectly, I don’t do it at all.” It’s tremendously self-defeating. The way out is to be excellent, not perfect.
As Karen Ireland put it, waiting for the perfect environment before starting something, is like putting off starting a trip until all the traffic lights are green.
Don’t put off your life. You can be happy today.
My fourth guest was Dr. Jayme Albin, of “Ask The Cognitive Behavior Therapist.”
Procrastinators struggle with self-control behaviors. It often consists of:
- Self Defeating Thoughts, that lead to
- Anxiety, that triggers
- Avoidance Behaviors, which feed
- Self Defeating Thoughts, etc.
Often her clients don’t realize that performance comes from two things — Ability and Motivation. They focus on Ability, and when performance lags, they see it as reflecting on Ability, which saps their confidence.
Once they undermine their own self-confidence, they continue to lose Motivation. This self-perpetuates.
Another way to describe this is, once you feel high levels of anxiety, your body wants to reduce that and reduce the stress hormones associated with it. One way to get a very small and temporary reduction in the stress is to make an empty promise. The empty promise then kicks real work further into the future and guarantees a return to even higher levels of anxiety. Then the brain wants that small reduction even more, and you’re even more strongly tempted to make the empty promise.
Dr. Albin uses bio-feedback and meditation to help reduce stress directly. Then she works on the cognitive patterns that are part of the procrastination trap — the “I’ll start when I’m ready” self-talk, or “it’s hopeless now”, or whatever it is.
There are five main themes that follow procrastinators:
Over-estimating how much time is left
Under-estimating how much time the task takes
Later I’ll feel better (fooling themselves about future motivation levels)
Later I’ll feel “right” (belief that emotion must be congruent with the task)
Perfectionists (belief that everything must be perfect before they can start)
Once the pattern is identified, she works to find different patterns that can combat the dysfunctional pattern. This involves challenging their beliefs and giving them multiple alternative self-talk options.
One client of hers has the assignment of starting each new task at the quarter-hour mark. If she finishes one task at 9:07, she has to start the next one at 9:15. This gives the client practice at time estimating, and lets her exercise her self-control against impulsiveness.
Self-control can definitely be strengthened. You have to want to. Many folks believe that “one day” they will suddenly achieve self-control without work.
Dr. Albin counters this by looking to their mission and vision for themselves. Who do they want to be? What sort of aspirations do they have? This provides the impetus for additional change.
She believes very strongly in working outside your comfort zone, so you always grow and change and lead an every greater and richer and more fulfilling life.
Find out more about Dr. Jayme Albin at her web site.