Hey friends, and welcome to Episode 189 of It’s About Time. Today’s episode is all about how – when it really comes down to it, procrastination is all in your head. Now, I don’t mean that you’re imagining that you’re procrastinating. If you *think* you’re putting things off, then you probably really are putting things off.
Instead, what I mean is that combating procrastination and getting stuff done actually starts in your head – with your mindset – instead of with your to-do list.
It’s true – sometimes our real first step to beating procrastination starts with how we think about procrastination.
So today, we’re talking about…
- The surprising role your mindset plays in getting things done
- Why it’s totally okay to procrastinate on purpose
- How to throw yourself your own personal anti-procrastination pep rally
- What your imagination can do to boost your self-confidence and keep procrastination at bay
Alright – let’s dive into 5 ways that you can procrastination-proof your mindset.
First up – Keep in mind that not all procrastination is bad.
Seriously! So often we equate procrastination with laziness or we label it as negative in general. But it turns out, some forms of procrastination are good!
The thing is – we are not meant to be 100% productive machines 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We need rest. We need recharge. And if you’ll remember back in Episode 187, I shared that procrastination is an action. It is the act of putting something off until later.
Sometimes we need to put something off until later in order to get enough sleep, to cultivate relationships with friends, or to rest our minds and veg out in front of the TV and watch reruns of Friends.
When you shift your connotation of procrastination from negative to just neutral, it helps you bounce back when you do find yourself procrastinating, instead of falling into a shame spiral.
Plus, there is such a thing as productive procrastination. What’s productive procrastination? Well – it’s when you put one thing off, but do something else instead. So while you might be delaying something, you’re still getting something done.
This always reminds me of studying for finals back in college. I used to be a big fan of productive procrastination by cleaning my apartment before I’d start studying. Yes, I was putting off test prep, but cleaning my apartment helped me create an environment for focus so that I could get the most out of my study time.
To sum it up, not all procrastination is bad. Keep that in mind.
Next, It’s more than okay to procrastinate on purpose.
For example, often we feel overwhelmed when we have too many things happening in our lives at once. Whether we’re juggling multiple clients, multiple renovation projects at home – basically too many of anything can cause feelings of overwhelm.
In order to beat back the overwhelm, procrastinate on purpose. Decide what you’ll put off until later so you can shift your focus to just a few things and give those few things your best.
Then, once you’ve made some headway or completed those initial projects, move on to the rest.
This is something I help my 1:1 coaching clients with whenever we first start working together. Typically in one of our early sessions, we take an inventory of all the “moving projects” in their life. I define moving projects as projects that you’re currently working on. These are the things on your idea list, but the projects that are currently in progress.
Once we get an inventory of those currently moving projects, we analyze upcoming dates and deadlines, prioritize and come up with an action plan for knocking them out. Once we’ve got a handle on that initial overwhelm, they have more brain space to dedicate to making progress in other areas. It’s really awesome to see my clients methodically clearing out things that have been weighing on them for months once we’ve got a plan in place.
So remember – it’s okay to procrastinate on purpose if it helps you beat back overwhelm and get the most important things done.
The third way to procrastination-proof your mindset is to pump yourself up. Throw yourself a little pep rally! Tell yourself how awesome and amazing you are!
One of the most common reasons why we procrastinate is because of fear. We’re afraid of failure, we’re afraid we won’t measure up. That we’ll disappoint others, or that we’re just not good enough.
And how do we fight back against fear? By shoring up our self-confidence. When you believe in yourself, when you think you’re awesome, you’re less likely to be held back by fear.
So, here are two things you can do to pump yourself up.
First, try some positive affirmations. As in, just say some nice things to yourself. I am awesome. I am successful. My ideas are worth sharing. I am an excellent money manager. I’m a great writer!
And if talking to yourself feels cheesy, keep in mind Oprah, Michelle Obama, and so many successful people have attributed positive affirmations to their self-confidence and their success.
Michelle Obama has shared that her daily affirmation goes like this: “Am I good enough? Yes I am.” I love how simple and powerful that is.
Oprah has said that she started using affirmations as a child, and she would repeat them every day. She’s credited her affirmation practice
Now, you can totally pick your affirmations and say them out loud to yourself in front of a mirror. But you can also write them down in a journal, or you can write them on a card and read them to yourself each day.
Now, here’s some science that explains why this is a powerful way to procrastination-proof your mindset. Its all about neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity is the creation of new neural pathways or the modification of existing neural pathways in our brains in response to behavioral, environmental and neural changes. Research has shown that our brains continue to change, constantly, throughout our lives. We’re forming new pathways every single day to adjust to our environment and actions.
So how do we connect neuroplasticity with procrastination? Well, if you practice something consistently – such as meditation, exercise, learning how to drive a car, repeating something over and over again can form new neural pathways. So repeating positive affirmations to yourself – your own personal pep rally – can rewire the way you think about yourself. And when you think positive things about yourself, your self-confidence starts to soar. And when you’ve got self-confidence, you’re less likely to procrastinate due to fear!
And if positive affirmations just aren’t your thing, there’s still something you can do to pump yourself up, and that’s shutting down negative self-talk.
Negative self talk is just the worst. It’s when the voice in us says we’re not good enough, that we’ll never figure it out, or that we might as well not even try. One study found that women put themselves down more than 1460 times a year. That comes out to, at least 4 times a day!
If you’ve ever joined my One Step Closer time management workshop, then you know that negative self-talk is just one of the ways we respond whenever time management just isn’t working for us.
And every time we allow that negative self-talk to persist, it impacts our self-confidence, which… yep – you guessed it – impacts our procrastination and our productivity.
So – next time you catch yourself being negative to yourself… try this. Give that rude voice in your head a name. Sheila. Bertha, Wanda, Negative Nancy… whatever feels right for you. And then… tell Nancy to just shut up already. That you’re not going to take it.
Give Rude Rhonda a big ol’ NOPE next time she sneaks in.
And – if any of you are listening and your names are Sheila, Bertha, Wanda, Nancy or Rhonda, I love all of you – I just picked some random names, I promise.
So – two ways to shore up your self-confidence to beat procrastination:
- One: Pick some positive affirmations and plan your personal pep rally
- Two: Give the rude voice in your head a name, and tell her to keep her mouth shut.
Alright – while we’re naming the voices in our heads, let’s keep the imagination train going. The fourth way that we’re procrastination-proof our mindset is to use our imagination.
Just like positive affirmations can help boost your confidence, so can visualizing yourself doing the thing that you’re putting off. It’s pretty simple – just think about the thing that you’re procrastinating, and picture yourself following through.
The idea is that “seeing” yourself do the thing – even if it’s just in your head – helps you believe that you can get it done. This is especially helpful when you’re feeling held back because of fear.
Picturing yourself doing the thing helps you practice following through. Michael Phelps famously has a full visualization practice that he would use every morning of a race. He’d picture himself getting dressed, moving through every part of his warm up routine, jumping into the water and winning. And he did this so often that by the time he was in the water, he’d already won the race several times in his head.
Using your imagination and picturing yourself following through helps your mind and your body prepare to take those steps in real life.
Studies have found that visualizing your future success can have so many positive benefits, including increasing your confidence, decreasing your anxiety, and boosting your motivation.
So here’s that connection again – when you visualize yourself doing something, you boost your self-confidence. And self-confidence means you’re less likely to procrastinate due to fear.
Alright – now heading into our 5th way to procrastination-proof our mindset, we’re going to give ourselves trophies. Not literal trophies from the trophy shop with a baseball player on top, but little rewards. Prizes.
When you’ve got some pretty big, long-term goals – things that you won’t see the finish line of for months, maybe even years – it’s incredibly easy for procrastination to set in. Here I’m talking about things like graduating with your PhD, writing a book, working on a major design project – basically anything that has many steps, and takes a long time to complete.
Here’s why we’re so likely to procrastinate on things that have a really long lead time, or a deadline that’s far into the future – it’s because the reward is far away. As humans, we’re driven by rewards constantly whether we realize it or not. And when a reward for doing something feels far away, we’re less likely to take action to get that reward.
So how can you plan for more frequent rewards along the way for tackling smaller pieces of the bigger project. Right now one of my 1:1 time management clients is working toward her PhD, and as we map out her work together, I encourage her to choose a reward for everything she completes – so she has that reward to look forward to short term.
One thing you can do here is make a little list of rewards. If I were making this list, I’d call it Anna’s Trophies!
Turns out, a lot of times we don’t give ourselves rewards because we can’t think of anything in the moment! So make your list of different ways that you can reward yourself. Things that are cheap, free, easy, and then some that are more of an indulgence, maybe a little more expensive – so you’ve got some variety to choose from. Then, plan your trophies in advance. Decide before you start on that thing you’ve been procrastinating on how you’ll celebrate.
Then, follow through. Actually allow yourself to celebrate. When you celebrate – when you get that trophy you’ve been looking forward to, it builds momentum and makes you want to keep taking action, so you can get more trophies – whatever trophies you decide to put on your list.
So there you have it – Five ways to procrastination-proof your mindset so you can get things done.
First – remember that not all procrastination is bad. We are not meant to be productive robots 100% of the time. We need rest, we need recharge.
Second – It’s okay to procrastinate on purpose, especially when the thing you’re doing while you procrastinate is going to help you do the thing you’re procrastinating better.
Third – Throw yourself a positive affirmation pep rally to boost your self-confidence. This helps you cut back on fear-based procrastination
Fourth – Use your imagination and picture yourself doing the thing you’re putting off. These mental reps help you practice what you’re procrastinating so you can buckle down and take action.
And finally – Give yourself trophies. Trophies, rewards, prizes – whatever you want to call it. When the finish line seems far away, give yourself rewards for milestones, and mini-milestones. When you have a specific reward to look forward to, and then you follow through – you build momentum that keeps you moving forward toward your far away, long term goals.