Let’s set the stage for what I’d like to call, A Tale of Two Types of Procrastination.
The first tale is about deadline driven procrastination, where the effects of procrastination are usually contained to the short term. This type of procrastination usually revolves around work assignments, homework, laundry or any other mundane task we find ourselves constantly putting off until the last minute. The second tale is about procrastinating on something when no deadline is given. Without a deadline the effects of this type of procrastination are not contained and can extend outward, FOR-EV-ER (cue scene from, The Sandlot).
The latter is much less visible and talked about than the more humorous, deadline driven procrastination. And unfortunately most of the items we’d like to accomplish, like starting a business or writing a book, do not come with a due date. Truth is, long term procrastination can make us feel like spectators in our own life, watching our days go by and still not a step closer to the finish line. The frustrating part is that it’s not that we can't achieve the dreams, or goals we set forth - its that we’re not even able to start chasing them.
1. Fear of the uncertain
We create our own realities in many ways, let's take fear as an example. Fear distorts our reality and under the warped logic of fear, anything is better than the uncertain, causing many of us to choose not to follow our passions because it’s deemed as risky. Some common fear statements include the following:
I’m worried if I start my own businesses I won’t be as successful as I would be if I climbed the corporate ladder.
The other candidates are probably much more qualified, there’s no point in submitting my resume.
I’m scared if I move to a new city it’s not going to work out.
I would really love to change my career, but it’s too late now.
I don’t want to be in this relationship anymore, but it’s better than being alone.
Our fears are our excuses, shortcuts and our surrender. Fear fills the void of uncertainty at all costs, offering the worst in place of the ambiguous. Living a life ruled by fear, cripples our growth and traps us in a safe, mundane life, never allowing you to reach your full potential.
Kind of scary, isn’t it?
So how can we cure fear? Take action. The moment we begin to take action on the future we’ve been dreaming of, is the moment our fear begins to evaporate. Indecisiveness and postponement fertilizes fear, once action is taken we’ll be able to start visualizing the next steps needed to accomplish what lies ahead..
2. Not Enough Time
The reality is variables change too often, and creating distance from now to when we plan to take action allows more excuses for postponement. If we sit around waiting for the right time, we will spend the rest of our lives waiting because if it's not now, how will we ever know when the right time is?
Time is running out for us to become the person we've decided to be, to make the difference we’ve seek to make and to produce the work we know we’re capable of. We must set our own buzzer by deciding what needs to be done and then setting goals and deadlines. However no matter how good our intentions are if.the task at hand isn’t a high priority, fun, distracting, profitable or urgent enough to make it to the top of the list we’re probably not going to take action.
This is because most people's goals are caught up in the trap of making a living rather than designing a life. Action and change occurs when we start to fall in love with a different version of our future. In order for us to make something a priority we must dream big, and fall in love with a dream so grand we wouldn’t dare give up on it.
Which leads me to the third (and for the purposes of keeping this blog a reasonable length), final reason why we procrastinate:
3. The Goals We’re Setting Aren’t Big Enough
Bottom line: if something doesn't illicit excitement, we’re not going to make time for it. If the potential payoff is mediocre or average, our effort will be mediocre as well. So one of the main ways to avoid the effects of long term procrastination is actually to develop bigger, more inspiring goals. We already have the power to act, the reason we may not have been able to summon it, is because we failed to create a goal worthy of transforming our life. The more grand our goal is, the more motivation we’ll generate.
The problem is, many of us don’t know what we really want to pursue. We’re too busy stuck in our day-to-day situation to step away and discover what we really crave. To discover what it is we truly want to pursue we must must mold our day, week, month, year and so on by asking ourselves better questions.
If money or time weren’t an issue, what would I want to do with my day/week/month?
If money or time weren’t an issue, what would be the top 5 areas of my life I would pursue?
What would I want for my life if I knew I could have it anyway I wanted?
What would I go for it I knew i couldn't fail?
It's important to realize that the questions we ask ourselves shape our thoughts and impact our actions. Remember that our current conditions do not reflect our ultimate potential, but rather the size and quality of the questions and goals upon which we’re currently are focusing. In fact, accomplishing goals that appear to be unrealistic are easier to achieve than “realistic” goals. Tim Ferriss explains this concept:
Truth is, we’re deciding what the rest of our life looks like right now therefore we must act with intention. And whenever we feel like the odds are against us, let's stop and remind ourselves what we’re about to be.