To begin with, if you have a relationship with procrastination, it is not helpful to beat yourself up. Go easy on yourself and be a kind friend to yourself. Take some time to think about and understand all that is wrapped up in the procrastination.
Perhaps there is something productive going on in your relationship to procrastination – the ‘necessary ripening’.
Perhaps your creativity is temporarily blocked and soon the obstacle will be out of the way and the creative juices will flow freely again.
Perhaps you have lost sight of the bigger picture and why this is important for you to do.
Perhaps you are afraid: afraid the project wont be perfect enough or afraid of what others will think.
Perhaps you are waiting for the perfect time and conditions before you start.
Perhaps the task doesn’t align with your values (any more), yet is something still needing to be done.
Perhaps you know you work better under pressure and so are putting the project off to the last minute!
David Whyte writes: “What looks from the outside like our delay; our lack of commitment; even our laziness, may have more to do with a slow, necessary ripening through time and the central struggle with the realities of any endeavour to which we have set our minds. To hate our procrastinating tendencies is in some way to hate our relationship with time itself, to be unequal to the phenomenology of revelation and the way it works its own way in its very own gifted time, only emerging when the very qualities it represents have a firm correspondence in our necessarily struggling heart and imagination.”
Whatever the reason, the job/project/creativity/task usually needs to get done. You signed up for it, you made the commitment to do this thing. You could try and unravel what the underbelly of the procrastination is, this insight may help you ‘get to the heart of the reason you are delaying’ and encourage you to begin. You may need to take yourself back to your values and to ask yourself the questions: what is truly important to me? what is my preferred way of being? what man or woman do I most want to be?
You could also try visualising yourself doing the actual task. Sit back, relax, close your eyes and walk yourself through the task in your imagination. Look at yourself from above and watch yourself doing the task, step by step. Put in as much detail to the visualisation as you can. You could even write down your intention to do the task and the basic steps you will need to take. Breaking a task down into smaller chunks is a proven way to get the job done.
If you feel your creativity is blocked whether for writing or visual arts, you could consider Julia Cameron’s ideas from her classic book The Artist’s Way. Julia maintains writing ‘morning pages‘ will unblock all artists. She also believes we are all creative beings. This technique always works for me. When you wake in the morning grab your notebook and write three pages in stream of consciousness style. Just keep the pen moving over the page and write whatever pops into your mind. If you have no idea what to write, just keep writing ‘I have no idea what to write’. There is no need to read over the writing or edit it. Try it and see what happens – sometimes you will experience a light bulb moment, it can be like a kind of self-therapy.
You could try Michelle Bridges ideas that go with her 12 week body transformation – JFDI. She says don’t even think about it, don’t give yourself a chance to talk yourself out of doing what you need to do JFDI – ‘just f…..ing do it!’
Some recent research on procrastination from the University of South Carolina – see here, says to tell yourself in days when something is due. For example, instead of saying I have three months to get this done, tell yourself I have 90 days. This research showed people who thought in days, procrastinated less.
A technique that always helps me when I’m deeply engaged with procrastination, firstly I try and be kind to myself, there is no point beating oneself up, and then I gently encourage myself to just do fifteen minutes on the task. I set an alarm and promise myself a reward after fifteen minutes. Sometimes beginning is the most important step and I may ‘trick’ myself into completing the task. If fifteen minutes feels to long, just start with five minutes.
Perhaps you need to ask someone for help, someone to collaborate with or to physically help you. Talking through your relationship with procrastination and even holding yourself accountable to another person may be what is needed. For example, make an appointment to meet a friend to walk together might get you exercising, gym buddies are great too.
In our world where there are so many glittering temptations, cute cat videos and other distractions all around us. It is so easy to find ourselves bedded down with procrastination. Yet, procrastination may not be the enemy you think it is, it may be the most important ingredient for the task at hand. We all know we can’t force a butterfly from the cocoon or the flower from the bud!
To quote David Whyte again: “Procrastination does not stop a project coming to fruition, what stops us is giving up on an original idea because we have not got to the heart of the reason we are delaying, nor let the true form of our reluctance instruct us in the way ahead.” (From David’s new book Consolations – The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words, 2015)