“We are so scared of being judged that we look for every excuse to procrastinate.” — Erica Jong
What the heck is going on?
Your goal is clear, you’re organized, and you’ve made time in your daily schedule.
So why can’t you get started on your dream project?
It’s so frustrating and discouraging.
You want to work on it. But some underlying, invisible dread seems to holds you back.
And instead of creating your magnum opus, you watch like a bystander as momentum fades in the face of denial and excuses.
Traditional wisdom tells us procrastination is the result of poor time management.
But recent research shows that emotional regulation, or lack of, is a more probable cause.
And that’s good news. Because learning to manage your feelings is key to empowerment and personal freedom — and an end to procrastination!
1. Expose the root cause
Emotional procrastination is a coping tactic. Faced with tasks that produces negative moods, like fear of failure, our brain hijacks our efforts to avoid the perceived danger.
Fears like to stay hidden because they’re more fantasy than fact, insubstantial campfire tales. Facing them exposes their inherent impotence.
To end the hijacks, expose yourself to your fears slowly. Do one small, fearful task every day, even if it’s for only one moment, and you crush the idea of lurking danger.
2. Exterminate the ANTs
Automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) are instinctive like reflexes. They produce a constant, repetitive loop of anxious or fearful thoughts, emotions, and actions.
They’re shadows from the past, sneaky and subtle. They lie about our ability and worth, produce heavy, dark emotions, and dictate our focus.
Like with imperatives. “This always happens to me.” No, it doesn’t. Watch your narrative and weed out the fibs, drama, and white lies in your story — they’re not helping.
3. Tame the urge to bolt
We like to bolt when things get hot and doomy. Often, we’ll physically remove ourselves from threats. Other times, it’s a mental escape.
Before bolting, bring your attention back to here and now. Give the scary beliefs and fearful emotions a moment to rise, then sit with them, calmly and objectively.
It’s hard, but you can and will survive. And that’s the point — fears are illusory. Lift the veil, and poof, they melt like the Wicked Witch of the West.
4. Flip your focus for a change of heart
Fears seem real and scary because of the meaning we give then. But perspective is entirely within our control and can be leveraged to our benefit.
The idea is to give whatever triggers our fears a positive slant. To see them as beneficial, offering a valuable lesson, not punishment.
Instead of ducking, get curious and use fear as a positive feedback tool. What insights, guidance, and messages do they hold for you?
5. Coax stubborn resistance into surrender
Our best intentions are easily sidetracked by old habits, and this can make change difficult. Sometimes, we need to force ourselves to change.
Forcing functions can help because they bypass habituated responses. They force us into new behavior until the new behavior becomes routine.
If you want to be an early bird but always hit snooze, move the alarm across the room. You’ll be forced out of bed to turn it off, becoming an early riser by default.
6. Leverage your driving forces
As humans, we’re driven to attain rewards and to avoid punishment. A natural inclination that you can use to push through resistance.
To reinforce positive behavior, add rewards and consequences. They make it easier for us to habituate the behaviors we want more of.
For example, add a small reward at the end of a 30-minute work chunk. Naturally, a reward for work done feels good, making you more likely to repeat the behavior.
7. Build confidence with baby steps
A key to overcoming fear is through the process of building confidence — which only comes after you’ve done something out of your comfort zone.
Start small and begin by showing up each day for your project. Show up again the next day, and the next, adding in a minute or two of work each day.
Every day you show up, you create consistency and amass evidence of your competence. This builds the confidence to go further tomorrow.
Kiss procrastination goodbye
“The only difference between success and failure is the ability to take action.” — Alexander Graham Bell
Imagine leaving the disappointment and frustration of procrastination behind you for good.
Imagine facing those phantom fears without bolting… and surviving!
And just imagine using that brilliant mind of yours to challenge negative beliefs and change your perspective — seeing every event as happening exclusively for your benefit.
Because we need your work.
We need emotionally strong people who stand up to fear, not propagate it.
And we need examples of everyday courage so that we too can be inspired to act.
So, come on.
Say to hell with fear and start today.
You’ll be giving procrastination the kiss of death!