What is the biggest block to anyone achieving success? The answer: procrastination.
Procrastination is probably the most virulent problem encountered when trying focus on your goals. I should know. I’ve been one of the worst offenders in the past!
And it seems to be the same for so many people as well. Whatever we aim to achieve, other things seem to get in the way. Everyday life, with its run-of-the-mill routine mixed in with those other little impediments (work, family, house chores, shopping, social life etc. etc.), all seem to get in the way most of the time.
But it can go deeper than this. It’s not just about having to deal with those all important tasks in everyday life. Sometimes, it’s something deep down inside of us, some sub-conscious negative programming that sabotages our progress to achievement. And this negative programming manifests itself in the most virulent way possible – as the ‘fear of failure’. It says we’re not good enough, not deserving enough to obtain the goal and achieve success. So we procrastinate to avoid having to do it. What a shame!
So, how it can it be banished, this thing called ‘procrastination’? Why is vanquishing it so central to mastering the ‘psychology of success’?
Take Margaret Thatcher as your starter…
Okay, so I’m being topical here seeing as she has just passed away from this mortal coil. Also, I know that she was not the most popular of figures sometimes. In fact, she was very divisive (I should know, I lived through the time when she was Prime Minister.) It also hasn’t escaped my attention that people have been holding street parties to ‘celebrate’ her passing and also some people have tried to get ‘Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead!’ to the top of the charts as a ‘tribute.’
That aside (I’m not going to debate the politics behind all this, beyond the scope of this article really!), one thing that can be said for Thatcher was that she was most definitely NOT a procrastinator. In fact, she was the total opposite. She used to work very long hours when she was in Number 10, sometimes only having four hours sleep!! (Now I feel guilty for having got up late during the Easter holidays!!)
Thatcher was most definitely a ‘do-er’ (a term she coined herself for the sort of people she liked to surround herself with.) She was focused, she was driven, she worked hard and – like or loath her – she got things done. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why people are calling her Britain’s greatest peacetime PM, never mind the politics…
To find out why she was like this, you only have to look into her background as the daughter of a middle-class grocer in Grantham. In fact, this was something I only read about the other day in the numerous features about her that have appeared in the press. It turned out that her father was very strict, instilled a powerful work ethic in her (along with her sister) AND laid out a very specific rule – THAT THERE WAS NO TIME FOR TIME WASTING!
So, doesn’t that provide you with a very powerful case study as to how the ‘psychology of success’ can be programmed into you from an early age? Margaret Thatcher had the good fortune to be exposed to this as a result of her upbringing and it stayed with her through-out her life. It enabled her to press on and go to University (obtaining a degree in Chemistry from Oxford), enter politics (later becoming the MP for Finchley), pushing for the leadership of the Conservative party (against over-whelming odds) and then becoming the longest serving Prime Minister of the 20th Century. This, in itself, was the result of winning three general elections.
What does this tell you about procrastination? Do you think she would have got to where she was and earned the title ‘Iron Lady’ by being a procrastinator? I don’t think so…
So how can you banish procrastination from your life too?
Like me, you probably haven’t had the benefit of a strict upbringing in the style of Margaret Thatcher. So, how can you banish procrastination from your life once and for all?
Well, let’s be certain about one thing. Vanquishing procrastination can remove a very powerful block on the path to success! Tweet this!
As this is an important part of developing a very powerful ‘psychology of success’ mind set, here are three methods I’ve used over the years which I discovered as a result of my investigations and used myself. And, as they are so useful in my opinion, I do think it’s worthwhile sharing them with you here. Of course, like all these things, they’ll only be effective if you repeat them over and over again and build up those neural path-ways. The main thing is to get started in the first place!
VISUALISE YOUR SUCCESS:
Visualisation might seem like an an over-used approach to developing a growth mindset, but – in all honesty – I still think it is one of the most powerful tools available in your armoury. If you want to convince yourself that the goal is worth the effort and that you DESERVE it, then one of the best ways to quell that nagging little voice is to visualise your goal using the old NLP trick that makes use of visual, auditory and kin-aesthetic factors to re-enforce it. Why? BECAUSE YOUR SUBCONSCIOUS MIND CAN’T TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHAT IS REAL AND IMAGINED. So, you visualise something, it thinks its real. Do it enough times, it’ll think that what it sees is routine – and the actions will become habit.
Whatever your goal is, take some time to visualise the outcome. See yourself as having achieved it. What do see? What do you hear? What do you feel inside? Indeed, how does it make you feel? How much different do you feel to how you were before you achieved the goal? Do you feel a hundred times better? Do you think it’s it worth it?
Do this a number of times, and soon you’ll find that your mind will soon become attuned to your goal and you’ll be raring for action to get on with what you need to get on with.
It worked for me – I wrote a novel which was 300,000 words long using this technique. It genuinely helped me get on with the task!!
Take five minutes for yourself. Get yourself into a relaxed state (make sure you have no disturbances, listen to some relaxing music if you like!) Then visualise your goal as if you achieved it. What do think, see, hear, feel? Make this as vivid as possible, so that it feels real, as though it’s happening in the moment. What insights do you get? How much better do you feel? Is it worth the effort? Do you feel fulfilled?
Simply work on this during your visualisation and nothing else (better to work on one goal at a time, or your mind can get over-loaded.) Do it regularly and you’ll soon become so focused on your goal that you’ll have not time to worry about failing. Your mind will have become hard-wired to achieving that goal.
CHUNK THE TASK DOWN
If you think the task or project you need to undertake is too great or over-whelming (and, consequently, you shy away from getting started in the first place.) This is certainly something symptomatic of the fear of failure, the little voice inside telling you: ‘This is too much, you’ll never cope with it. Don’t even get started – you’re bound to fail!!’
Does that sound familiar? Is that what happens to you? Well, there is a very simple solution – chunk it down!
If a task is too big, break it down into smaller chunks.
So let’s say you want to learn Spanish. You decide that to do this, you have to sign up to some classes. The classes are held once a week on Tuesday evenings. You know you can spare the time. What’s stopping you signing up straight away? Procrastination, of course, because you think the whole thing too daunting! What if you don’t have the time to study? Who can you practice with? Maybe you’ve never been good academically, anyway, and you feel you won’t be able to cope with the classes. What if everybody makes fun of you because you can’t handle the pronunciation very well?
Suddenly, you come up with loads of excuses as to why you can’t commit yourself. The solution?
This is what Jurgen Wolff suggests with his approach to chunking down. If the classes are paid on a weekly basis, all you have to do is go to one and try it out. If you find that it’s too much, you can always drop it – but at least you tried! Maybe the first one is free – even more reason to go along and try it out. You can promise yourself that if you decide to get up and go to the class, you can always change your mind and come back whilst you’re en-route. Once you get there, you can stay for the class. If you like it – great! But you can always promise yourself that if you find by the next class that it’s not for you, you can always drop out again if you so wish. And so on, and so on!
What you are likely to find, as you chunk down the process, is that you are more likely to stick to your goal over a period of time and take the required action – all because you have broken it down and (most importantly) given yourself a get out clause if you need it.
This principle can be applied to any goal you have set yourself – so what’s stopping you?
Think about the goal you would like to achieve. If you’ve been putting off getting started on it, what can you do to break it down into chunks? How much less daunting would it be if you were to do this? How much more could you achieve? Create a plan of action, breaking the goal down into different stages and give yourself a time-frame to complete them in. Most importantly, make sure that each stage is manageable and plan an escape route for each stage so that you have a get out clause if you need it. If you like, you can use the table below to help you plan your chunking process:
|1. Date/Time||2. Stage||3. Gain||4. ‘Get out clause’
1) Enter the date/time.
2) What do you want to do at this point?
3) How will doing this contribute to the overall goal?
4) Promise yourself what you can do to extricate yourself if you need to. Only use as a last resort.
5) Have you managed to complete this stage or not?
KEEP VISIBLE REMINDERS
The final strategy I’ve used in the past to beat procrastination is to have visible reminders. If you’re anything like me, I bet you have trouble keeping focus sometimes. To counter this problem, have a visible reminder somewhere prominent so that you are constantly reminded of your goal. This way, you won’t be so easily side-tracked or even be in the position where you end up forgetting your goal (which can happen.)
If you have that reminder present, you’ll be reminded that you need to get it done. Then you won’t forget it, because it’ll be at the fore-front of your mind. This gets round the guilt factor as well, because there’s nothing worse than getting to the end of the day and realising that you’ve forgotten to dedicate some time to your goal.
Say I want to write two hundred words today for my latest novel. I’ve got umpteen other things I want or need to do, but I really want to get these words written because it’s a daily target I’ve set myself to complete. How do I remind myself to do it? Simple, I get myself a post-it note or index card and write on it ‘Write at least 200 words today’. I then leave it somewhere prominent so that I can see it – my desk, on the table downstairs, on the chest of draws in the bedroom, stuck on the fridge or bathroom cabinet. Anywhere really, as long as its somewhere I will see it regularly. After having done all my other tasks, I see the notice again and think ‘I’ve got some time to do this now! I’ll sit and write my two hundred words!’
See the concept? It doesn’t have to be post-it note or card. You could invest in a small wipe board, mount it on the wall and write your goal there. Whatever you want to do, but keep it visible!
If you’ve set yourself a goal (maybe using the SMART technique mentioned in a previous post) and maybe used the chunking model above to plan how you’ll do it, then write down what part of it you want to achieve today on an index card, post-it note or wipe board (you can get some small, cheap ones for 99p even!) Then put it in a prominent place where you’ll see it frequently or even constantly. Commit to completing the task written down on the notice then move onto the next one. A great anti-procrastination tool!
There are other techniques that can be used, but these are the three I’ve found very useful over the years. Practice them regularly and they can become very powerful tools for overcoming procrastination and getting things done. Use them, and you’ll banish procrastination for ever!
What do you think about this? Leave a comment below if you’d like to share your thoughts.
(For fabulous time-management stuff, again I’d really recommend ‘Focus – Use the Power of Targeted Thinking to Get More Done’ by Jurgen Wolff. Now in its second addition, this book has been a major influence on the way I approach goal setting myself. For more information, click here to see the book on Amazon. Please note –this is an affiliate link. Please ensure you undertake more research yourself before buying.)