I tend to procrastinate. I can start my day with the best of intentions to get important tasks done, but I soon find myself detouring from the path. I end up filling my hours with busyness and errands. I know the most important things I need to do, and the ones that will bring me ultimate happiness; but I tend to put the more pressing things first, such as chores, errands, phone calls, etcetera.
I procrastinated about writing this article, for example. I knew what I wanted to say, but found excuses about writing it down on paper. I seemed to be too busy with less important tasks, so it didn’t get done.
People are usually aware of those times when they’re procrastinating, but they can’t seem to flip the switch. This can lead to all kinds of self-defeating thoughts and feelings of guilt, eventually causing depression. When we are procrastinating, it’s usually over the things that will make our lives better. Not doing them usually results in unpleasant consequences.
So, why do we procrastinate? Why do we let meaningless situations get in the way of our dreams? Why do we put off starting a new business, losing the weight, or taking that trip? What is really so important in life that we have to put our dreams on the back burner?
Here’s the good news; you are the one who procrastinates, and you are the one who can make it stop.
There are many reasons why people procrastinate, and most of them are valid excuses. Some may have a hard time concentrating, and find themselves with so much on their plate, they can’t focus on just one thing. Others may have anxieties about completing a project and doing it right, so they avoid doing it all together.
Our belief about ourselves is another reason why we may procrastinate. If a person doesn’t believe they can achieve their dreams, they will tell themselves so, and avoid trying.
For some, it could be the fear of failing. Why start out to accomplish something, only to realize you can’t do it after all—and then, there’s always the possibility that someone won’t like it.
Whatever the reasons for procrastination, there are ways to overcome it.
Step #1 Identify What’s Holding You Back
Take a close look at yourself and identify any behaviors that could be related to fear, anxiety, concentration or time management. Understand why you have these behaviors and try to eliminate them.
Understand your goals and your purpose. What is it you really want to accomplish? How do you want to live, act and feel?
Line up those goals with your current behavior and note where you are self-sabotaging your own dreams. Are you subconsciously creating behaviors and situations that will ultimately lead to failure?
Step #2 Practice Discipline & Motivation
Discipline and motivation are also vital to overcoming procrastination. Ask anyone whom you consider successful how they manage to continuously work on their goals, and never stop until they reach the finish line. I bet they’ll say it takes discipline to stay focused and keep going even when the going is tough or unpleasant.
Practice focusing on the reward and not on the work. Remember that the work is just a “means to an end.” It’s what you have to do to get what you want.
I was talking to an expectant mother a few months ago, and she asked me about the pain of labor. She was nervous about going through the experience, as this was her first delivery, and she’d heard horror stories.
I was honest with her. “Look at it this way,” I told her. “The labor is just a ‘means to an end.’ If you don’t go through the labor, then you’ll never meet that precious baby!”
I encourage you to use that same advice with your own goals. Focus on the end result. Figure out what you have to do to get there, and then make those tasks a priority each day. Do the work and reap the rewards! The hard work is just the means to an end. It’s what will bring you to ultimate victory.
Step #3 Dust Off Your Dreams
Most people have dreams. Some might not put them into action but they still have them, pushed into the recesses of their minds. “Some day,” they’ll tell you, “I will accomplish XXX.”
What are they waiting for? Why do they settle for living a mediocre life rather than an exceptional one? Why do they think they will do those things “later”? Why do they wait to really live to their fullest?
What if the doctor told you that you had only six months to live? What would you do? How would you act? What would be the most important things you would want to accomplish?
No one wants to think their time is up tomorrow or the day after, but the truth is, we all have a prognosis of death. We are all going to die one day and leave our loved ones behind.
If we were actually given six months to live, undoubtedly we would also make the best use of our time. But—what about now? Why not start living that way now? Why wait another day just living an ordinary life, when you could be living an extraordinary one? What is holding you back? What are you waiting for?
What if you didn’t die in six months but instead you lived to be 105? How do you want to spend all those years? Do you want to age with regret? Do you want to mourn the loss of your dreams? There will come a day when you won’t have the energy mentally or physically to go after your goals, so time is of the essence.
Start living a life of purpose today! If you continue down the same path you are on today, tomorrow will be as predictable as today. If you live to be 105, that is a very long time to live just an ordinary life. Think about it.
Step #4 Start Living Now
Why put off your dreams until tomorrow when you can accomplish them today? Will something magical happen “later” that will give you more time, energy or desire? Probably not. So—what are you waiting for?
Life can be so busy. Even if we have some down time, we can easily fill it up with “stuff.” Let’s face it: life will always be busy. There will always be an errand to run or an obligation to fulfill.
If we know we will always be busy, then why not get started now? Why delay happiness? Why not be happy while you’re busy? Just make the decision.
Life is short, but if we focus on the opportunities we have while we’re living, then we can have a life of greatness. Rather than running from the fear of dying, make it your goal to do everything you want to do in life. Live with more purpose. Focus on your goals.
Love those you love with a love that will last them a lifetime. And most important of all: love yourself. Love yourself enough to follow your dreams and be who you were born to be. Live now, while you’re still in “the living years.”