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From Procrastination to Success

From Procrastination to Success

If you expect you won’t succeed in something, you probably experience procrastination in that area of your life. Do you tell yourself, “I’ll never be able to [quit smoking, write that report, find a mate, lose weight…]”? Low expectation is one of three main causes* of procrastination, and procrastination is growing in our society. 

Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Equation, identifies several strategies you can use to develop a little more self-confidence and higher expectation to reach your full potential.

“Success Spirals”

Choose some area of your life that really interests you and work to improve just a little higher above your present skill level. Record your progress every day and notice how putting in effort results in success.

The beauty of this method is that overcoming obstacles and achieving success in one area of your life spills over into other areas. As your confidence grows, try some small steps outside your comfort zone. Remind yourself of how you built success before – by putting in effort and persevering.

“Vicarious Victory”

Absorb confidence from inspirational movies, biographies, and speakers. Hang out with positive and upbeat people. Adopt successful and inspiring role models as your own. For some people, joining a support group provides encouragement and inspiration. “If he can do it, so can I.”

“Wish Fulfillment”

Visualize in detail what you want AND contrast this with where you are now. If all you do is spend your time in “fantasy land”, you drain your motivational energy. You need to focus on the gap between what you want and where you are.

“Plan for the Worst, Hope for the Best”

Most of us need about five attempts to create lasting change. Procrastination may kick in when you’ve attempted change and it hasn’t worked, such as quitting smoking or reducing your procrastination.

The thing to do is to get back on track, as many times as you need to. You might notice that your lapses aren’t as severe and they don’t last as long, which is progress! Don’t expect perfection in yourself and in the process of change.

So, what to do…  Identify ways you procrastinate and post them where you need to see them. Avoid risky situations (e.g. e-mail, on-line games) that pull you away from the thing that needs doing.  Develop a recovery plan so you know what to do when you have a slip up.

“Accept that You’re Addicted to Delay”

As Steel points out, there is huge danger in “one drink, one candy bar, one small delay”. We downplay the significance and tell ourselves it won’t hurt. The trouble is, a whole chain of delays can develop from that first delay.

Really, though, if we can’t make the right decision today, what makes us think we’ll make the right decision tomorrow. Know the excuses you tell yourself so that you’ll be able to spot them.

Complex Challenge

Procrastination is a complex challenge that is growing in our population, but the good news is you can kick the habit with proven techniques to help you.

* 2010. Piers Steel. The Procrastination Equation. Random House Canada, 253 pp.
Another cause of procrastination is the low value you put on something; it’s no fun to do taxes, so people put it off. Impulsiveness is the third cause of procrastination, when responsibilities are put off in favour of pleasurable things.

I’m putting off writing for another time about strategies to overcome these two causes of procrastination! I promise, however, to have the value cause posted by next week, and the impulsiveness item the following week.

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