How to stop procrastinating and reach your goals

Posted in Lifestyle, Self Care
on March 18, 2018
How to stop procrastinating

WHY DO WE PROCRASTINATE?

There are a ton of reasons we procrastinate. Probs quite ironic that I’ve sat with just that first sentence written for about 10 minutes, just appreciating the scone display in the café I’m working in.

 

We procrastinate because we’re stressed, we just don’t want to do something, or because we see the task as something negative. Or, the biggie for me, fear of failure.

Maybe you’re just waiting for the ‘right place, right time’ to do something, and ‘right now’ never seems to be it.

Whatever the reason, you’re probably your own worst enemy when it comes to putting something off that you know you need to do.

 

 

I’ve been digging into research on procrastination, it’s effects, and some strategies we can use to try and tackle it. Because I know procrastinating is one helluva problem for us all.

 

 

So, procrastinating can result from feeling disconnected from our future selves; or, as a result of a breakdown in our self-regulating mental processes.. This means it’s easy to ignore potential negative consequences of procrastinating.

 

This is pretty likely when you think about doing something you feel negatively about. If a task is boring, frustrating, difficult, or lacks quick results, it can lead us into a fairly bad mood when we think about doing it.

In other words, we ‘give in to feel good’, and feeling good can be achieved, in the short term, by avoiding the task.

 

Preach, right? I constantly avoid things I know are good for me because they’re scary, or hard, or I tell myself I don’t have the energy, or that I’ve earned a break. Sound familiar?

 

 

 

WHY IS PROCRASTINATING SO BAD?

The shit thing is, procrastination doesn’t just mean you miss deadlines. It can have really negative consequences for health and wellbeing.

 

Think about your resolution to get fit. You bought the gym membership, you know it’ll make you feel good when you’ve done a workout, and it’ll help you towards your fitness or health goals, but you still don’t go.

 

The negative health impacts here are that you miss out on an opportunity to make yourself stronger, fitter, and grab some of the mood-boosting effects of exercise.

 

Procrastination is also linked to stress which, in turn, has a negative impact on your physical and mental health.

Double shit.

 

 

Research has shown that procrastinators experience high levels of stress, and lower levels of self-compassion.

Although this research used mainly undergraduates as their participants and their circumstances are obviously different to the general population, it’s definitely worth considering that trying to boost your self-compassion to have a healthier attitude toward yourself ain’t gonna do you no harm.

 

 

 

How to stop procrastinating

STRATEGY 1 – MENTAL IMAGERY

Ever heard of oneirotherapy? Nah, me neither until today. It’s all about visual imagery and imagination.

 

Some people have had success reducing their procrastinating habits by imagining themselves in the future.

To get the best effect, you really have to imagine being in your future self’s body. Thinking about the feelings and sensations involved: the sights, smells, touch, tastes of being your future self.

 

It makes a lot of sense. Consider how procrastinating might effect your goals and imagine how that will impact you in the future.

 

Tips for mental imagery

  • Question yourself to prompt details in the scenario and really make it vivid. The clearer the image, the better.
  • Consider yourself from both a first and third person perspective. So, how will you look, think and feel in the future and how will others see and respond to you?
  • Make sure you have time to really focus on this, in the same way you would a meditation session – quiet room, no distractions.

 

 

Example

Take the example of exercise, again. Imagine yourself standing in a room in 6 months’ time. Describe the room – is it light? Are there any other objects or people in the room with you? Where are you exactly? What are you doing there?

 

Start to notice your appearance. What is the expression on your face? Is your haircut the same? Are you wearing makeup? Pan down. What does your body look like? Is it different from how you see your body in the present? Do you have a tan? Do you have any new scars? Tattoos? Have you gained or lost anything? Weight? Muscle tone? How do you feel about that? Do you look stronger? Do you look healthier? How do you feel about that?

 

And so on.

 

 

I read a really interesting dissertation where participants did some ‘future-self-focused’ mental imagery exercises. They showed a decrease in procrastination afterwards.

 

The point is to make yourself in the present feel more connected and more empathetic toward your future self.

Because of the vividness of the images about your future self, you might procrastinate less as you’re more readily aware of the consequences.

 

Mental imagery is something that is probably quite new to a lot of us. But, I urge you to give it a try.

 

How to stop procrastinating and reach your goals

STRATEGY 2 – SELF-FORGIVENESS

Another strategy is to forgive yourself for procrastinating.

Apparently, if you forgive yourself, and move on, you’re more likely to just crack on without delay next time.

 

This was a key finding in some research, again with students, who’d forgiven themselves for their initial procrastination studying for exams. They then showed less negative emotion in the time between exams and were less likely to procrastinate before the next lot of exams.

Self-forgiveness wasn’t related to performance in the first exams, but it did predict better performance in the second set.

 

The idea is that you acknowledge that procrastination is a disservice to yourself and you can move forward without the weight of guilt to hinder you in the future. You try to let go of that negative emotion and you can positively approach the task next time.

 

 

 

STRATEGY 3 – VISION BOARD

This is just kind of based on my own experience. I have a secret board on Pinterest which is my ‘vision board’ for the future. I pin any images which make me excited for the future.

 

Things like: fitness inspiration, interior décor, business tools, personal appearance stuff, pictures of happy families, pictures of awesome summer BBQs and travel snaps….you get the idea.

 

I add to this whenever I feel like it, but it’s particularly useful for when I feel like putting something off when I know I shouldn’t.

 

Whenever I feel like I just can’t face working, or networking, going to the gym, or doing something for personal development, I look at my future vision board and it reminds me that, to get the life I really want, I need to do the thing I’m putting off.

 

At some point, when I have a more permanent residence, I’d love to make this vision board physical. It’d be a great thing to have up in your office if you have one.

 

 


Procrastination is a problem we can all face, but I’d love to know if you’ve found a way to stop, and how that’s impacted your life. Share in the comments, or drop me an email.

Share your vision boards with me, I’d love to see them. I might even make mine public for accountability!


How to stop #procrastinating and reach your #goals. 3 strategies, backed up by research, you can use to get more productive. Plus, the effect procrastinating might be having on your #health

 

 

 

How to stop #procrastinating and reach your #goals. 3 strategies, backed up by research, you can use to get more productive. Plus, the effect procrastinating might be having on your #health

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6 Comments

  • Beatrice N

    Love this post! I immediately thought of this (perhaps my favorite TEDTalk ever) called “Inside the mind of a master procrastinator” . I haven’t really had problems with procrastinating on things like schoolwork since middle school, so I never thought of myself as a procrastinator, but the end of the talk, where he talks about how we procrastinate on our lives really hit hard. I guess my problem is with not putting enough time towards the things I love and want to do in the future and focusing too much on problems in the present. I was actually planning on making a vision board this Saturday, so I’ll definitely share it once I do! I also have got to try the imagery tip – sounds like such a perfect and motivating thing to do while taking a break from working!

    Beatrice | The Bliss Bean

    March 18, 2018 at 19:00 Reply
    • North

      Ooh I don’t think I’ve seen that one, I’ll have a look, thanks for sharing it 🙂

      I totally know what you mean, when it comes to actual work deadlines, I’m absolutely fine and I just get it done, but with my own goals it’s much harder! I’m glad you’re going to try the imagery thing, please do share how you get on with it. I think it might be one of those things that seems a bit weird at first but really helpful once you get used to it, and I love the idea of trying it when you’re taking a break from work, that’s probably a really motivating thing to do, especially when you feel like stopping!

      Please please do share your vision board! I’d love to see it – send me a link via email/twitter/whatever you like when you’ve started!

      Thank you for reading and commenting, I’m so glad you liked the post 🙂 xx

      March 18, 2018 at 23:56 Reply
  • Merkitty

    This is such a good post. Very helpful. I’m going to be saving this! I love the thought of thinking ahead at a future you.. that is such an interesting way to think. I rarely look to the future because I worry that I will expect too much of myself and then get frustrated when things don’t go that way.. but maybe when it comes to procrastinating that is exactly what I need to do. I think one of my biggest reasons for procrastinating is depression.. everything gets put off because I’m depressed. Medication helps to a certain extent, but it doesn’t push me to get things done. I’m definitely going to be trying out the imagery aspect.

    March 19, 2018 at 15:55 Reply
    • North

      Thank you, I’m so glad you found it helpful, I found it really interesting to put together. I’m a massive procrastinator and, similar to you, a lot of the reason I put things off is because I’m anxious.
      I think avoiding things or telling yourself you can’t/don’t want to do them, when you have a MH condition, is a slightly different issue. It’s like an extra battle to fight because sometimes those messages are so strong!
      I really hope you have some success if you try the imagery strategy. If nothing else, it’ll be nice to take some quiet time to reflect and try and think about the future in a hopeful way, which I know can be really difficult if you’re suffering with things like depression.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, please let me know how you get on if you do try it out x

      March 19, 2018 at 22:33 Reply
  • Josie

    Love this post! All really good ways to stop procrastinating. I love the sound of oneirotherapy – I’d never heard of that before but it makes total sense! And definitely agree with self-forgiveness and vision boards – Pinterest and Instagram are ideal for any creative projects!

    Definitely going to give these a go!

    Daughter of An Air Hostess // Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle

    April 1, 2018 at 14:34 Reply
    • North

      Thank you Josie! So lovely of you to take the time to read. Definitely give them a go and see how you get on with them!

      April 1, 2018 at 21:33 Reply

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