5 Smart Steps for Beating Procrastination

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Author: Michael Locklear

Millions of people struggle with completing goals and overcoming challenges due to the habit of procrastination. In fact, it's one of the most common personal issues that people seek help for. There are several reasons why people procrastinate or avoid tasks. They can range from simple, basic laziness to fear of failure, lack of confidence in your ability, or simply a strong dislike for the task at hand.

People commonly put off doing things because they don't know what to expect or what the outcome may be. They might fail, other people might laugh at them, they might look foolish, there may be a lot of stress, or any number of nonspecific anxieties.

We all struggle with the fear of the unknown on a daily basis. It's the way we think and our perception of things that paralyze us and keep us in a pattern of avoidance. If you believe that something is unpleasant or distasteful, or that you'll fail if you try to do it, or if you believe that you will somehow lose something, you will probably make sure you never get around to it. In most cases, this only creates high levels of stress, or brings unpleasant circumstances. When you get in touch with how much pain you feel when you procrastinate, you can begin the first step to overcoming it.

Many people procrastinate because of a lack of motivation. To fight this kind of procrastination, you can set rewards for doing these undesirable things. If exercise is difficult, try giving yourself a reward every time you go to the gym. You deserve it for having persevered. Next time, you may be just that much more motivated.

For many people, procrastination consumes major amounts of time in their daily lives. Because of this habit, they don't get things done. This results in more stress, and more frustration. In the end, procrastination makes things far more difficult than they would be if you simply completed the task. Stopping procrastination means you can avoid all the pain of the failure procrastination causes.

Other reasons why people procrastinate:

A lack of faith in your own abilities
Fear of trying anything new because of past failures
Low self esteem
The goal is not associated with a reward

Procrastination is one of the most time-consuming activities one can engage in. It causes a great deal of stress and frustration. Here are five steps you can take to make overcoming procrastination simple.

Step 1: Find your direction.
Every time you procrastinate, write down the task you are avoiding and your justification for avoiding it. Keeping a record will help you understand how your attitudes are related to your procrastination. Then you can identify strategies to redirect yourself when you feel the desire to procrastinate. Always focus on the task you wish to perform and your reward when you succeed. Focusing on your reward is the most powerful way to overcome procrastination.

"If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else."

-Yogi Berra

Step 2: Get focused
You can easily become overwhelmed if you try to do everything at once. Instead break your goals down into simpler tasks. Start putting them into action, one at a time. Start as soon as possible. Take time every day to work on your goals.

If you find it really hard to get started on a task, try working on it for ten minutes. This will usually help you get some momentum, and help you feel like continuing. Start with a simple task first, and be sure to visualize yourself completing the task. This will help you to focus on the goal, and the reward you will receive upon completion.

"Most people have no idea of the giant capacity we can immediately command when we focus all of our resources on mastering a single area of our lives."

-Tony Robbins

Step 3: Be aware of your thoughts.
The more you procrastinate, the more monumental the task becomes in your mind. Allowing limiting beliefs to control your actions becomes a parasite on your chances for success. You must confront your beliefs about yourself and the task, and face your fears.

Instead of daydreaming about your failure, and all the things that could go wrong, and how hard it's going to be, fantasize about how good you will feel having gotten the task out the way, how confident you'll feel when you complete it successfully, and how confident you will be about your ability to do the next thing. Keep your focus positive, and this will build a new attitude that will overcome all your limited beliefs, and defeat procrastination.

Learn how to separate your anxious thoughts from your realistic thoughts. Imagine the worst-case scenario. Then, make a plan to get back on your feet if the worst should happen. Chances are you would recover relatively quickly, and resume your normal life.

"Our attitude toward life determines life's attitude towards us."

-John N. Mitchell

Step 4: Build your tolerance to negative emotions.
Fear and stress are normal. They come from being uncertain, or feeling threatened in some way. Most of the time they're just feelings, and there is no real danger. Courage is not the absence of fear, it is the ability to continue in spite of it. Courage is required to overcome procrastination.

When you persist in pursuing your goals, you build up your tolerance for stress and anxiety. In time you will feel more confident, more capable, and far less stress and overwhelm. When you don't fear the feelings of anxiety, you will procrastinate less.

Meditation is a powerful way to build your resistance to negative emotions. Major universities all over the world have found that it reduces stress and anxiety, elevates your mood, and improves your ability to focus.

Step 5: Take command of yourself.
Success always means going outside of your comfort zone. No matter how unpleasant the results of procrastination, the habit remains part of your comfort zone. One very important first step is to stop complaining about what you have to do. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy, and complaining only drains away your will to succeed.

Focus your mind on all of the benefits you will receive from being successful in whatever you need to do. Keep your mind focused on how wonderful you're going to feel and all of the wonderful things that are going to happen to you when you are successful.

"Self-command is the main discipline."

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Overcoming procrastination is not as hard as you might think. Once you take these five steps for overcoming procrastination, your fears and anxieties will melt away, and you will experience the many benefits of being in control of your life.

Michael Locklear is a researcher and consultant with 30 years experience, studying health, nutrition, and human behavior. He has been president of the Global Peace Project since 1986, and he administrates the websites and as part of the Global Peace Project educational outreach program.

John MacKinnon is a researcher with the Global Peace Project educational outreach program who has had a lifetime struggle with being overweight. His life experience with failed diets and weight loss programs, in addition to his extensive research in health and nutrition, gives him a unique understanding of the problems facing people struggling to lose weight.