Photo courtesy of Bruno Cervera at Unsplash

Photo courtesy of Bruno Cervera at Unsplash

Would you describe yourself as someone who procrastinates?  Someone who knows that there are specific things that need to be done and yet you get to the end of the day or week and it's still sat there on your list.  Oh yes lists, a perfect tool for procrastinating! Yes you have that thing on your list that you know is important and yet you fail to do it.  In fact in order to avoid doing it you convince yourself that there are other things that need to be tackled and before you know it you are organising the files on your computer or other jobs that you never normally do.

Procrastinating is a well known trait of Imposter Syndrome.  That is not to say you have Imposter Syndrome if you do, but this blog is talking specifically about how Imposterism and procrastination work together but importantly how to overcome it.  

I believe there are 2 types of procrastinating - one is when something you have to do is classed as dull and boring so you just keep putting it off in favour of something that is more enjoyable to you.  The second is linked to Imposter Syndrome and it is when you have to do something that you know you need to do or want to do and yet despite all the mental energy you use to think about it, you just don't do it and this one is linked to doubt and fear.   Fear of getting it wrong, fear that you don't actually know how to do it, fear of producing something that won't be good enough, fear of being rejected and the biggie - fear of being found out.  The dangerous part is the fear makes you procrastinate and the procrastination leads to self doubt.  Sound familiar?  So how do you break the cycle?

1.  Identify why you are procrastinating

When you keep putting something off it's good to check in with yourself and ask what is going on around this?  What are the reasons that I am putting this off?  When you get super clear on why you are putting it off, you can then understand what the actual problem is.  You see procrastination is not the problem, it is just the symptom.  Get to the root cause of what is making you procrastinate.  That is the holy grail.

2.  Identify what are your procrastination habits

Yes you might procrastinate but there are probably certain things that you do when you are in the habit of procrastinating.  So take some time and make a list of how you procrastinate and then make sure you keep that list where you can see it.  That way when you fall into your procrastination habit, you can recognise it and call it out.

3.  Look at your past successes and achievements

When starting something new Imposter Syndrome can rear up so a good way to handle this is to  recall instances in the past when you have done something similar.  Think what did you do then that could help you now and what was the outcome.  Self doubt forgets that there is a wealth of past experience, knowledge and skills to call upon.  So use your memory in a positive way and re-assure yourself that you can do this as you have done it before or something similar.

4.  Tuning in to your inner mentor

We all know that we have the inner Imposter that tries to hold us back but the best thing we can do is to listen to that inner mentor that probably doesn't get much air time.  One way to do that is create some phrases that you say to yourself to give yourself a positive pep talk.  Here a couple of mine.  "My voice counts, I add value, I know my worth" or "It's my time and I am ready for the next step".  You can borrow mine as I know I borrowed them from someone else or come up with your own but when you come up against your procrastination tune in and ask your inner mentor to support you.  

5.  Do it first

If you used the time that you spent actually thinking about the thing that you needed to do and just got on with it, you would be further ahead and you would finish the day in a better headspace than self deprecating yourself for failing to do what you set out to do.  In fact you may put something off and then rush it and then if it isn't good enough you have an excuse why it wasn't up to standard.  A pure protection technique.  So to save all of that mental energy throughout the day, make sure that it is the first thing that you do.  Before checking social media, emails, phone calls etc.  Brian Tracy refers to it as "eat that frog", i.e. doing the most difficult thing first and what do you do if you have multiple frogs?  You eat the ugliest one first! In fact tell yourself that your first attempt is going to be shit and take the pressure off.  It doesn't need to be perfect, you don't need to be perfect.  It is work in progress, you are work in progress.

Procrastination is the most common manifestation of resistance because it’s the easiest to rationalise. We don’t say we aren’t going to do it, we just say we are going to start tomorrow
— Steven Pressfield - The War of Art

6.  Remove distractions

In today's society we have never been so reachable and distracted by technology, so when you are actually getting round to doing what you have been putting off, remove all distractions.  Put your phone on airplane mode so you cannot be disturbed by phone calls, notifications and temptation from the flashing screen and alluring apps.  Also do the same if you have notifications set up on your laptop.  In fact one way I have managed this is I have removed notifications on all of my devices so I don't get the alerts.   Also check in with your distractions checklist.  If you find yourself gravitating to one of those, catch yourself and bring yourself back to the task at hand.  

7.  Stop using time as an excuse

If you use time as a reason that you don't get things done that you want to or need to get done then I am calling bullshit on that.  I bet you find the time for other things and I'm guessing there is something you have been putting off doing because you don't have the time, yet here you are reading this.  We all have the same hours in a day and it's all about prioritising.  If it's important do it first (see above).  If not ditch or delegate it.

8.  Reward and Celebrate

Oh yes this is a crucial.  If you are in the habit of procrastination then when you finally get something done that you have been putting off, celebrate your success.  It can be something as simple as a fist pump or you can treat yourself to something.  As it is your way of celebration, the good news is you get to choose the reward.  

Tell me what are you procrastinating about right now and what is the first step you are going to take?  I hope you found this helpful and if you put any or all of these into practice, I would love to hear how they helped you.  Let's continue the conversation in the comments below.