Keys to dealing with procrastination

A mentor of mine, Dr Richard Bandler, once said that “He who hesitates, waits and waits and waits”. Unfortunately, most of us are guilty of hesitating from time to time. Why do we do so? Furthermore, what can we do to overcome this and take action. This is the subject of this week’s post.

Procrastination or hesitation is the decision of putting things off. I call it a decision because you are deciding not to do something now and you are deciding to spend your time doing something else. We do this for a number of reasons. Perhaps we are scared to take the action, or we are afraid of the uncertainty of what will happen if we do and fail or even what will happen if we do and succeed. Sometimes we hesitate because we ‘couldn’t be bothered’ and are too lazy to do something. Other times, we are not sure if this action is the right action and we wait to be one hundred percent confident that it is, in fact, the right thing to do.

Why we hesitate or procrastinate is not always the same as why we ‘say’ we do so. Our excuses are often about it ‘not being the right time’ or that we are ‘not ready’ or that we ‘do not need to do it yet’ or that it is not possible. We are experts at justifying our hesitation and this is part of the problem. To overcome hesitation and to make ourselves take more action, we need to address these issues and find a strategy to enable us to handle all aspects of this problem.

The first key can be seen by exploring how I have described procrastination or hesitation. It is important to see it as a decision. Unfortunately, most people act as if this decision is outside of their conscious control. However, with few exceptions, you are always in control over what you choose to do. You are always in control over your actions or lack thereof. Recognising this is crucial because it enables you to realise you are already taking action. To an extent, you are never ‘hesitating’ you are just prioritising something other than the action you are trying to take. For example, if you sit on the couch and watch TV instead of cleaning the house, that is not you hesitating to clean the house. That is, you choosing to watch TV over cleaning. By seeing it like this, the answer simply becomes a question of changing your priorities.

In order to change said priorities, you need to understand how to deal with the issues that stop you from choosing the best action over what you actually do. If you are scared to take the action, consider what will happen if you do not take the action. Often, that is far scarier when you really think about it. Furthermore, consider what you need in order to feel more confident to take the action. Imagine how you might handle the worst case scenario in the best possible way. This will help. 

Predict a variety of potential outcomes and plan for each of them. In the face of uncertainty, all we can do is plan as much as we can and remind ourselves that no matter what we will be able to handle whatever comes our way. Reminding yourself of how you have done this in the past is a good place to start. Plan for success and failure and understand that benefits and consequences will arise from both so we should be prepared for them.

When it is a case of laziness, call it out and admit it to yourself. Once you do this, you need to focus on how great it will be once we have this done and we can relax and how stressed we will be if we keep putting it off. Make it more hassle not to do.

Understand that you can never be 100% sure that something is the right thing to do. You can only give it your best guess based upon available evidence. Let yourself off the hook with the need to be perfect all the time and give yourself permission to make mistakes. When you do this, you will have the freedom to go for what you want.

Call yourself on any of the bullshit excuses you hear coming out of your mouth. Congratulate yourself for having the dexterity to justify any of your behaviours and accept that is all it is. Remind yourself that you need to change this behaviour or your future will suffer.

Give yourself deadlines and then create sub-deadlines working back in time from having achieved the goal. Deadlines can often force us to take regular committed action toward what we need to achieve. You can give yourself very small goals to get started. If you are writing a book for example, give yourself a target of writing non-stop for half an hour, no matter what the quality. The key here is in beginning. When you start something it is always way easier to continue it.

Lastly, remind yourself of what Dr Bandler says, when you hesitate you will be waiting a long, long time. One of the best reasons of all to take action is that it means that you can take your life by the scruff of its neck and achieve the future you desire. I hope this helps.


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