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Procrastination is defined as the action of delaying or postponing something.
We’ve all been guilty of doing this to some degree, some people do it more than others.
We know we would be better spending time doing things that move us closer to our goals. Work that is productive, and worthwhile. When in college or university, it’s revision for that all important next exam, presentation or completion of the next assignment in time for the submission deadline.
So many students procrastinate right up until the looming deadline gets so close that delay can no longer be extended, pulling the all-nighters just to have any chance of submitting something reasonable.
It doesn’t get much better for non-students, in fact, most people struggle with procrastination in some aspect of their lives. Pulled and push about by distractions and temptations, we spend way too much time on social media or surfing the net, in a vain attempt to avoid doing what we should be doing. Or doing anything we can, to get out of going to the gym.
Our instant gratification monkey keeps us seeking pleasurable experiences and avoid doing things that we perceive as work or difficult and thus unpleasant.
We’re hardwired to avoid discomfort, either physically or psychologically.
So how can we better get on with the things that will improve us, encourage growth, and that will lead us to our goals?
This website is laden with motivational advice, we even have a model to help you unlock your potential, and hack your blocking thought patterns and behaviours. Sign up to our newsletter for more about this.
We’ll add just a couple of options here, but there are many others throughout the website.
Use CONSEQUENCES to your advantage.
At college or university we have deadlines. The fear of a failed exam or a poor score on your assignment are enough for you to resort to pulling an all-nighter, so that you don’t have to suffer the indignity and shame of the consequences of failure. And although students are known for cramming right up the the finishing line, they do still do all they can to hit those deadlines. Deadlines work.
So putting yourself in a position where you give yourself a DEADLINE, and where failure has adverse consequences, will help you hack your motivation. For instance, having an accountability buddy, who holds you to account for your progress, milestones and end result, is one idea. Broadcasting your intentions and date for completion to your family and friends is another, say on social media. You don’t want to look like a failure to the people closest to you, so you better get the work done.
Give yourself REWARDS for following through; if you get [x] amount done in the next 2 hours, you’ll reward yourself with 30 minutes doing fun stuff, or a lovely treat or whatever works for you.
Use INCENTIVES along your journey, daily targets achieved result in something good coming your way. If you get [x] done by [y] you can have/do [z].
In the same way as incentives, use PUNISHMENTS to direct your actions but for the opposite reasons. If you don’t get [x] done by [y] deadline you can’t do [z].
One last thing to consider before we wrap up this post; if you can do something that you love to do so much, and doing it doesn’t feel like work, this will be motivation enough to put in the work. So doing what you love, that also moves you towards your goal(s) is the best scenario possible. It’s worth trying to figure out a way of aligning your purpose (goal) with your day to day activities (actions/behaviours) whenever possible, because this is perfect alignment between your outer world and inner world.
Good luck in your journey.
While watching the Great North Run on television today, I came across the following story, called THE STARFISH. It’s such a powerful story, in terms of motivating action, so thought I’d share it with you. Here it is, hope you get some inspiration from it. Please share it and spread the love.
I was chatting to a friend of mine some time ago, when we got onto the subject of DRIVE. Drive to take action, to follow a certain path. I guess you could refer to drive as motivation.
Anyway we got to chatting about drive coming from the need to escape something, in the sense of keeping busy to keep the mind occupied, so as not to dwell on unpleasant memories.
I remember watching a Tony Robbins video where he was having a conversation about his fear of not taking action being so great, that it overcame any fear he had about taking action. The fear of taking action is often what prevent people pursuing their dreams and chasing their goals down. They fear failure, so don’t even try.
Having thought about this some more, I came to the realisation that we can be driven towards something, like a dream or a goal, or we can be driven to escape or avoid something from our past or in our present situation. There is a third option which is to not do anything because we are indifferent about or content with the status quo or we fear change, but we’ll just keep this post about the first two with regards to drive.
I questioned myself as to what the pros and cons of each of these drives were, and decided that if it helped someone achieve a desired course of action, then either is valid. However there are wider implications with regards to dealing with the issues that a person is running away from, because if they aren’t dealt with sooner or later, they are likely to be running forever. Running might originate from the fight or flight response, but prolonged flight is not particularly healthy in the long term.
It’s much healthier to be driven towards something or be driven by doing something. If you’ve a passion for doing something, than that seems like the ideal situation to aim for.
After all life is lived in the present moment, so it makes sense to enjoy the present moment by doing something you love. Anything else is a mind created construct, both past a future. The past has been spent, the future is not promised.
Have you ever wondered why…
People who have been told to stop smoking for health reasons, still smoke. Research says this is as high as 70%.
People who hate themselves because they are too fat, go eat more chocolate.
People who have never followed through, suddenly do.
Have you ever wondered why some people don’t take action when others do?
Why do people buy educational products and not get results?
How great would it be if everyone who bought them, actually used them, and did something with the information they provided?
I think people buy products to escape that feeling of lack, they buy for the feeling of hope it gives them, even if only for a short time.
What turns a person on, and what pisses them off is RELATIVE. It’s different for everyone.
People that don’t take action are in a DESIRE situation, they have dreams and ambitions, but not in a MUST situation.
People that do take action fear not following through more than taking action. They fear what they will miss out on, or they have a strong enough reason to follow through.
And they get validation when it works. Once they’ve proven it to themselves, they do more of it, often at a higher level. They leverage their results.
Some create rituals to allow them to get another skill to help them be even more productive/capable of earning more, being more and having more.
Breakthroughs come by feeding your mind, and creating a ritual every day, building momentum.
Surround yourself with more successful people, to help change your perspective. Shift your desires, your standards change by being in situations which show you better.
Alternatively, find something your excited about doing.
What would you do if you had a gun to your head? What would you do if you could not fail?
The holy grail between someone taking action or not is CERTAINTY or BELIEF. If you know it will change your life, you will take action.
Non-believers buy the product event though they don’t believe it will work. The product has to prove itself to them first, before they will believe it. They also lower their expectations. But to be a critic, you don’t have to have guts.
GUTS are needed to BELIEVE, but people don’t want to get their hopes up, for fear of disappointment.
Success is about 2 things…
- MINDSET – It’s about potential. Practice in your head, so that you believe it, and body will get you through. The belief in their potential is key. You might say “I’m not like Tony Robbins, or Jim Rohn, so you take no action. So what would happen if you were certain you would not fail?
- WHAT ACTION YOUR TAKE – will determine the results you get. Each success, builds on the last, via momentum.
So how do you produce certainty when the world is not giving it to you? Get results in your head, before you actually have them in reality. Visualise what your life is going to be like, believe it. Increase your EXPECTATIONS. Condition your mind so that you know you will achieve x.
Studies show MIND affects PERFORMANCE. So VISUALISE, perfect practice makes perfect. Through mentally practicing many times you develop certainty.
We have beliefs we aren’t even aware of. The POTENTIAL is always there, but you must change you feeling of CERTAINTY.
Don’t focused on the action, visualise the results. The action becomes automatic, you’re in flow state.
CONDITION YOUR MIND by making it a RITUAL, create CERTAINTY and BELIEF that you can and will succeed.
So in summary…
- DECIDE – enough is enough
- VISUALISATION – success
- CONDITIONING – develop rituals, and create certainty. keep moving forwards
- RITUALS – regular perfect mental practice
- CERTAINTY – create a belief
- GUTS – believe and don’t fear disappointment
Many of us have fallen victim to PROCRASTINATION. It’s a real productivity killer, but have you ever dissected why you procrastinate?
I recently came across an interesting equation that provides some useful insight into the components that make up procrastination, and hopefully by looking at each of these components we can begin to analyse how each of us are falling victim to procrastination.
Motivation = (expectancy x value)/(impulsiveness x delay)
Lets look at each of these components…
If you feel confident of successfully completing a task, your expectancy will be higher and that will increase your motivation to get the work done.
If the task looks really difficult, expectancy will be low and you’ll be more likely to procrastinate.
Value includes the rewards you get for completing the task, as well as how pleasant or unpleasant the experience of actually doing it is.
This is about how susceptible you are to falling foul of distractions and impulses to do other things, and this is directly correlated with procrastination.
The less able you are to resist the sudden desire to check Facebook, the more you’re going to put off working on that should do task.
If you can resist such an impulse, you’ll actually be strengthening your brain’s ability to focus. This is definitely a case of practice makes perfect.
This is the amount of time between now and when you’ll get any reward for completing the task.
The more you delay doing a task, the less likely you are to do it, because people naturally place far more value on short-term rewards over long-term rewards, even if the long term rewards are objectively greater.
So having identified the components that cause procrastination, the question is how to overcome them…
Break tasks into smaller sub-tasks. This reduces the psychological burden and possible anxiety, which can be experienced when taking on a particularly difficult task. The thought of taking on a particularly hard task can often be enough to prevent you from starting.
Don’t be scared to ask for help. If you can enlist the help of someone who genuinely knows what they are talking about, they can help you over the inevitable difficult bumps in the road.
Improve task VALUE
Improve the actual rewards for completing the task, such as visualising a more fulfilled life or enjoying the fruits of your labour.
Improve the experience of doing the work itself, such as doing the work in a nicer location/environment.
Add additional rewards for completing sub-tasks, such as can be found with gamification, or letting yourself watch a movie, or spend time on social media, when you complete something.
Prevent distractions and temptations by removing yourself from them. If you’re needing to exercise, go to the gym where you’ll be immersed in a fitness focused environment. If you need to get an article written, work on a computer that has no internet access, so you aren’t distracted by social media.
Willpower get used up during the day, like a tank of fuel, so do hard things first when your willpower is fully charged.
Overcome DELAY paralysis
To make use of our natural tendency to put more value on short-term rewards over long-term rewards, break long term goals into shorter term ones, and give yourself a treat when completing them. This way you are making use of your natural tendencies, rather than trying to fight them.
The Pomodoro technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980’s. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. This timer acts as an external motivator, and makes a bigger task more digestible.
So there you have it, work your way through the components of procrastination and figure out how best to hack each, and at the end of it, do what you want to get done.
For more motivational hack, check out our motivational guide.
The old saying goes “You can’t beat experience.” You can be told time and again how to do something, but until you’ve actually experienced it, you don’t and can’t really know.
Taking action is key
Imagine trying to ride a bike, simply by reading a step by step process from a book. There are certain things that just can’t be conveyed by words. The experience of feeling the point of balance, of instinctively knowing how to shift weight to stay upright, can only be learned by DOING.
As the poster quote says at the top of this post;
“When you’re told it you might believe it, when you’ve done it, you know it.”
You can read as much as you like, glean insight and understanding about a subject, and you should, but without actually taking action to do something with that information, what’s the point? How do you really know it works?
There are many things that sound plausible, and on an intellectual level can be believed as fact, but without first hand experience, there is no way to know for certain.
We might fall foul of hidden agendas, manipulated for someone else’s gain, suckered into buying something we don’t need, all because of a compelling proposition and reasoned argument.
Information is abundant, you can Google just about anything, and find thousands of webpages devoted to it. If you look hard enough, you’ll also find lots of contradictory information on many topics, that might result in your head spinning with confusion.
Find reliable sources
I personally try to find reliable source of knowledge that risk their reputation and credibility on the information they impart on others, and that have impartial testimonials and reviews to back their claims. They are people that know what they are talking about, because they have succeeded in what they teach, they have first hand experience. They can be role models, mentors, or mastermind teams. You can study their models, relationships, systems and habits to get an good overall view of their approach.
Trial and Error
I then progress with a plan of action in mind and test their approaches for myself. This process of trial and error, can be an expensive one if you’re not careful, both financially and time wise, but I like to see for myself. Does it work for me? I do a process of DO, TEST, MEASURE, and TWEAK. The experience of others is a starting point, it’s an insight that can be used to build from. It might provide information that you hadn’t considered for yourself, and you can take things forward from there.
Don’t fear failure
You should never be scared of failure because it is an integral part of the learning process, just as much as your successes. “There is no failure only feedback.”
As you progress towards your destination or goal, your experience will improve as long as you adopt “purposeful practice” and along with it, your SKILL will improve. To be considered as an expert, it is commonly believed to involve 10,000 hours of purposeful practice.
You can’t be good at everything and sometimes you would be best advised to employ the services of an expert, saving yourself time and effort, providing you can afford the expense of course. If you can’t afford it, then the one thing you do have is time. Stop binge watching the latest season of “House of Cards” and knuckle down to some purposeful practice and skill look towards improving and refining your skills.
However be very careful what you delegate to others. If you’re building an online business, you can employ a website designer to help you out, but you should know what is needed for success and ensure you direct them as to what you want and need, don’t just expect them to know, or care on your behalf. You’re the driver, and should take ultimate responsibility, using experts where appropriate, under your supervision and in-line with your vision. Use their knowledge, and experience of course, but don’t blindly offload everything without overseeing and understanding what’s going on.
Taking Action Quotes
Without the motivation to get off your ass and take action, nothing is possible. Taking action is where all progress happens. It is where you will “learn” as well as “do”.
All action and inaction is driven by motivation, which is made up of two opposing forces. One that wants us to be more, to have more, to be better. The other wants to keep us safe, psychologically and physically. They fight over everything we set out to do, and each battle can have only one winner. We need to give ourselves more of a reason to act than not, if we are to chase down our goals. We must NEED or WANT enough, so that staying safe is not enough.
After forcing the initial effort needed, habit comes to help us carry it on. Once you learn to master this initiation phase, the world is your playground.
Learn from TAKING ACTION
The feedback you get from doing is where all your education lies. Don’t be scared of testing boundaries, see what works and what doesn’t. Go about your actions with purpose and in a systematic manner so you can keep track of successes and failures.
Overcome fear of failure
If you fear failure, then you have to be prepared to undergo something of a mind shift. Redefine what failure means to you. Failure can only occur if you throw in the towel, if you are using it to navigate the path to your goal, it just becomes part of the process.
Think of it like finding your way out of a maze. Having a reliable map is great, but not always possible, so in the absence of such a map you might have go down a few dead ends and participating in a little trial and error is as effective as anything else, in such situations.
The three groups of people
Now some people are happy to take action, they have found a purpose that they are enthusiastic to pursue. They wake up excited at what lies ahead of them. Motivation is not an issue for these people. Sure, they might be somewhat fearful of the unknown but they find not taking action much more scary. Their fear of inaction outweighs their fear of action, hands down.
The next group of people, find they have their backs to the wall, they have to take action because of necessity. They might be facing financial or social pressures that are threatening to ruin them, or they might have reached the end of their tether, and just can’t take their present situation any longer. If they stay put, they are finished, emotionally, financial or in some other way. Again taking action is far less risky then not, at this point.
The third group of people are the least likely to be motivated to take action. They might have a burning desire to do something, a dream they want to fulfil, but their fear of change, of the unknown, of the possible risk that might, could possibly be waiting for them further down the road, is too great to take a chance. They might not be 100% content with their present situation, they might even be unhappy with it, but it feels safer or more comfortable to maintain the status quo.
So how do you find enough motivation to initiate action. Well first understand that like pushing a car from a standing start, the hardest bit is starting. Once you build up some momentum, a little thing called inertia takes over. Inertia is where the very act of movement helps propel you forward, requiring less and less effort from you. Inertia comes through the habits and rituals that you do daily. They might be small in nature but doing them daily, means you are using less conscious effort, just to take the action, you just do it, cause it’s what you always do.
It gets easier
So knowing that the first day of a new you is going to be the hardest, but give it a couple of weeks, you will have a new routine that kind of, takes care of itself, without you having to force yourself. If you still have to force yourself at that point, maybe it’s not for you. It’s important to have some self awareness of what you like and don’t like and why, check out my piece on self awareness for more information.
Move from indifference to WANT or NEED
Well going back to our groups of people, those that WANT enough to take action, those that NEED to take action, and the third group, these I call INDIFFERENT to taking action. The INDIFFERENT group as highlighted previously, are the least likely to act, because their fear of taking action is stronger than their fear of not taking action. So, if you’re in this group and are wondering how you find enough motivation to move you towards your goal, you have to push your mindset into either the WANT or NEED groups.
One of the best ways to increasing your WANTING, is by setting yourself goals.
Without a goal to aim for, you will lack direction, and it becomes difficult to effectively gauge if you are doing the right thing at any given moment. With a goal, you can develop a plan of action for achieving your goal and feel that you have a sense of purpose in the pursuit of it.
One of the masters of goal setting Zig Ziglar, outlined a seven step process for effective goal setting:
- Identify exactly what you want and write them down
- Spell out why you want to reach goals
- List obstacles to overcome to get there
- Identify the people, the groups and the organisation you need to work with in order to get there
- Identify what you need to know to reach your goal
- Develop a plan of action to reach your goal
- Put a date on when you expect to get there
On the other hand, manoeuvring yourself into a NEED state is for sure, a more high risk option, and not one that I would personally recommend. It includes things like leaving a regular day job that you might hate, to build your dream business, so that you have to make it work, or sink. I would prefer to work in the evenings to test the idea and build it to a point where it becomes less of a risk, but taking this all-or-nothing approach remains an option that some choose to take.
Over to you
You should try to find a purpose that pulls you towards it, rather than you having to push yourself to do it. Alternatively you have to cut your options so that you “HAVE to” take action, and give yourself no other choice.
One thing is for certain, if you stay in a state of INDIFFERENCE, you’re unlikely to take the necessary actions to leave your present situation. “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.”
Now I’ve given you some pointers, the details of how you go about it, are unique to you and your circumstances. Good luck. Please sign up to our mailing list if you want more tailor-made content, and share this article with your friends and family if you found it useful.
For more about motivational influences, check out our Motivation guide.
If you would like to read more articles focused on INITIATING MOMENTUM, click here.
Why do some people NOT take action, when other’s do?
Why are you not living the life you want?
If you’re where you want to be in life, you’ve already won…
… but if you’re hungry for more, for better, then what’s missing?
Why are you not where you want to be?
’cause your stuck in the…
There’s not enough MOTIVATION to move you forwards
You haven’t given yourself a big enough WHY
If your goal isn’t big enough to PULL you to it, or…
You’re not desperate enough to HAVE TO get off your arse…
You WON’T TAKE ACTION
And only by TAKING ACTION is anything going to change
Increase your DESIRE or DESPERATION
Take your motivation from a “WOULD LIKE TO” to a “MUST DO”
There are three states you can occupy, two of which will push you to take action, the other will keep you stuck in your current status quo.
The first state is to “WANT TO…” this is where you are drawn towards or pulled towards a goal or to take a particular action. You’re compelled to act from within yourself. This state is due to having purpose, doing what you love, pursuing something you are passionate about.
The second state is to “HAVE TO…” this is where your back is to the wall. You’re forced to take action through necessity, financial or otherwise.
The third state is “Indifference” this is where you’re somewhat content where you are but would ideally like to progress, be in a better place or position in your life. You have ambitions and dreams but you’re not motivated enough to take action. This is where most people exist.
They don’t take action because they don’t have a big enough WHY. They fear taking action over not taking action. They haven’t tipped the balance. They need to shift their state into one of the other two states to motivate them into action.
Fear and pain is often the very thing that can stop you pursuing your dreams, by contrast, it is often the most powerful catalyst for change. Let’s look at a few examples…..
Missed opportunities, like what you didn’t do when you had the chance, is often quoted to be one of the greatest pains, when people look back on their lives. We tend to regret what we didn’t do over what we did do, that didn’t work out. Fear of regret however can help to strengthen our motivation to “take action”. Focus on how you will feel, if you fail to give-it-a-go. Visualise your regret, and use that to drive you into action.
When you can’t take any more, when you’ve had enough. “No more” you say. This is regularly the point of change. You just can’t take the negativity, the draining negative emotions of a situation. You might feel trapped, frustrated, possessed, and you want to escape to a different reality. It can take years to get to this point of no return, but change happens in an instant, when we decide it has to.
Loss of credibility or being seen as a failure by others is a big motivator for most people. Put yourself in a situation where you have to deliver on your promise, by declaring a target, a goal and let the fear of failing, drive you into action. Accountability partners, and/or social groups like weight watchers are great examples of this kind of motivation.
Something to prove
How people are viewed by others is a big deal for many, if you’re cast in a negative light, or are seen as less than we feel you should be, you might feel the need to prove a point. Have you got something to prove? How about proving that you can set your mind to something and see it through to a successful conclusion. Use this drive to motivate you into action.
We often ridicule negative emotions, and try to avoid them, but as we’ve pointed out, they can be used to help you take positive action, as you reach for your goals.
For more about motivational influences, check out our Motivation guide.
If you would like to read more articles focused on EMOTIONS, click here.