How to Stop Procrastination Dead in it’s Tracks – Once And For All! A 3 step Guide

June 2nd, 2013 By: Ash

Frustrating isn’t it?

You’re really stressed out because you know you’ve got to get stuff done but you just can’t get started.

So you just sit there, do a lot of handwringing but not much else.

I’ve been there.

In fact, over the last few months I’ve spent several precious moments agonising over resuming my gym routine which had fallen by the wayside during a particularly busy period at work. Days of absence grew into weeks and weeks into months.

Hours of detailed planning and analysis (paralysis) led to nothing but apathy and guilt around the idea of wasted monthly gym membership fees.

This afternoon when I found myself in the same predicament I decided upon a simple thought experiment – applying mindfulness to the process. This led to 3 very interesting and actionable insights which are at the end of this post.

Watching the procrastinating mind

 

As I watched my mind I realised there was something more than “planning and analysis” around the gym or not to gym question. Procrastination was lurking beneath. As I watched the procrastination I noticed the beneath it was …

Fear!

Fear of what?

Fear of going to the gym after a long hiatus?

Fear of failure? (Whatever that means! How do you “succeed” or “fail” at the gym. I couldn’t work it out. There was this irrational fear.)

Eventually it occurred to me that this fear that presents itself just about every single day in my life – fear of the unfamiliar.

Interestingly I feel this fear of the unfamiliar even when it comes to “familiar” stuff. Why? Because everytime I do something it’s in a different context regardless of whether or not I’ve done it before. The events leading up to it are different.

Paradoxically I have spent more energy in my life avoiding the unfamiliar (and going to great extents to do this) rather than just acknowledge the fear and take action.

Eventually it boiled down to “just doing it”

I went to the gym – something I could have and should have done months ago. It was such a no brainer in retrospect. There was no need for the protracted thinking and pontification and guilt. But I did learn something very important in the process which I will apply to all my fear based limitations:

3 simple (but profound) steps to overcome procrastination using mindfulness:

  1. Step back and become mindful of what’s happening
    around the thought processes. Watch your mind carefully
  2. ‘Peel back the layers of the onion’ and see what
    is really happening – in this instance it was procrastination masquerading as
    analysis and ‘deep thinking’ which in turn was driven by fear of the unfamiliar
  3. Acknowledge the underlying fear – feel it in your
    body (I find a large proportion of fear is felt physically and can be released by acknowledging it as bodily sensations) and make a
    firm decision to act despite the fear – in this case go to the gym

Ultimately awareness is the answer to a lot of questions. It doesn’t always give me a direct or immediate answer but it is critical to the sustainable  long term change.

Combined with the 3 step approach to creating targeted to do lists the above approach can be extremely powerful in creating effective and sustainably productive routines.

How do you deal with procrastination? When was the last time you were found yourself paralysed with the fear that procrastination seems to bring with it? What did you do? Share your thoughts in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you.

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