3 reasons your procrastinate (and how to stop)

Sat Jan 1 2017 Michael McQueen

What are you putting off right now? Vacuuming the house, walking the dog, going to the gym? Maybe it's making those phone calls, tackling your inbox or submitting the job application you’ve been ‘working on’ for 3 weeks?

While procrastination comes naturally to most us, have you ever wondered why it can be so hard to shake off the shackles of inertia and get moving?

Here are three common reasons:

1. You aim too high

This is an interesting one of course – you may have never thought of procrastination as a by-product of ambition. However, often a key reason we get stuck in life is that we aim to accomplish tasks that are too overwhelming, intimidating and downright complex from a standing start.

Mark Twain said it best: ‘The secret to getting ahead is getting started. The secret to getting started is breaking your overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks then starting with the first one.’

So rather than trying to achieve the audacious, start with the simple and even the fun items on your to-do list. Accomplishing these simple things isn’t necessarily about getting those things done much as it is about getting yourself moving. As Newton’s First Law of Motion states, tendency of a body at rest is to stay motionless and the tendency of a body in motion is to keep moving.

2. You wait till you feel like it

Motivation is often overrated. Sure, it feels good to be inspired, but sometimes we’ve simply got to summon up our willpower, set out in a positive direction and let our fickle emotions catch up. Nike’s slogan really ought to be a motto for life: Just do it.

Waiting for inspiration to kick in before you get started is a bit like saying to a fireplace, ‘You give me heat and I’ll feed you some wood.’ Relying on emotion to spur action is also profoundly disempowering because it puts you at the mercy of the fickle whims of emotion and sentiment. While relegating responsibility to your mood may be tempting, it puts you in the passenger seat of life.

As founder of Habitat for Humanity Millard Fuller suggests: ‘You don’t think yourself into a new way of acting, you act yourself into a new way of thinking.’ The simple message is this: while it’s great to be inspired, don’t make inspiration a prerequisite for getting started. Remember, motion precedes emotion. Just get started doing something and let the feelings catch up.

3. You are too focused on what you need to do and not why

Paul J. Meyer said it best: ‘If you are not making the progress that you would like to make and are capable of making, it is simply because your goals are not clearly defined.’ 

Very few of us lack the knowledge of what to do or how to build success and momentum in our lives, we lack a clear enough sense of why to do it.

The best way to stay inspired and on track is to have a clear and conceivable vision to be focusing on. What’s the realistic, possible and inspiring goal you’re working towards. Do you know what it is and have you got it clearly set out in front of you? If not, even the smallest amount of effort seems too high a price to pay. On the contrary, where there is a will, there is a way – and you’ll only have the will if you have a strong and clear why.

If you are caught in the procrastination trap right now, there’s no need to beat yourself up. But remember, getting off go and building positive momentum in life is as simple as being realistic, choosing not to be emotion-controlled, and knowing the goal you’re working towards. Not rocket science, but it works!

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Michael McQueen is a trends forecaster, business strategist and award-winning conference speaker.

He features regularly as a commentator on TV and radio and has written 5 bestselling books including his latest release "Momentum: How to Build it, Keep it, or Get it Back."

To see Michael speaking live, click here and for more information on Michael's speaking topics, www.michaelmcqueen.net/programs.