Today in the final article in my series on procrastination I’m going to tackle two of the biggest root causes that could be holding you back from getting things done, along with some practical and simple advice about how to eliminate these blockages.
In the previous articles I’ve mentioned fear a few times and that’s because it is such a common cause of inaction, regardless of what the fear might be based on. The fact is, fears do stop us in our tracks and in order to get past them we need to understand what’s going on and where those fears originate from.
Many people put off starting something because they have an unconscious (and sometimes even conscious!) fear of the outcome. Whether good or bad, they are worried about what might happen if they actually do take the action they have been putting off – and this boils down to four key fears: Fear of failure, Fear of Ridicule, Fear of the Unknown and Fear of Success.
Fears are like spooky shadows – they only seem scary when we allow them to lurk around unexamined in the background. Like shadows, fears can seem hard to shake off: often looming large and scary, and permanently attached to us no matter how far or fast we try to run away from them. But there is one sure-fire way to eliminate a shadow – and that is to shine a light on it!
When we turn our rational and logical attention to our fears, it’s like shining a mega-watt flashlight on them – and - guess what, they vanish! So if fear of the outcome is what’s stopping you from getting started, investigate what you really think is going to happen by asking yourself the following questions:
What’s the worst that could happen?
What would happen if that happened?
How likely is that really?
What could you do to arm yourself against those unwanted outcomes?
How could you redefine them so they weren’t scary to you anymore?
Is the fear of that outcome really worthy of preventing you from achieving the positives that might happen?
What would you have to change (internally or externally) so these fears are no longer holding you back?
The last (but by no means least) biggest cause of procrastination is a pretty fundamental one – not knowing where to start. It sounds pretty obvious, but when we allow ourselves to become overwhelmed by the enormity of the task at hand, or if there are just too many things that need to be overcome before we can start, getting started can seem impossible.
The first thing to do if this is the case is remember the great Lao Tse quote: “A thousand mile journey begins with a single step.” Break things up into the smallest possible bite size steps and just do one tiny thing at a time. If you still can’t take action, the first step is still too big – so break it down even further. And if you still can’t figure out what is the first step to take, the first step is figuring out what is stopping you!
Which of these four factors are holding you back? Events, Skills, People or Resources?
Now get specific about exactly what aspect of these is stopping you: If it’s events, are they local, national, global?
What is within your control to change about this so you can take action?
If it’s skills or resources you need – get specific about which, how much you need and how you will go about gaining these resources.
And if it’s people, get clear on who is hindering you or who can help you and make a plan to approach them or do something about it.
Whichever of the six key procrastination causes has been wreaking havoc on your productivity, I hope you’ve found this series helpful and are now fully armed to go out and take action! Don’t hesitate to comment below and if you found this series helpful, go ahead and share these articles with your friends!
With the Med season peeking around the corner, from next week I will begin a new series on creating a career and life you love through yachting!
Alison Rentoul is ex yacht crew with 15 years of yachting experience, and a professionally trained personal development coach working with crew worldwide, helping them realise their highest potential at every level. See www.thecrewcoach.com for more information.