Procrastination is NOT your friend.
I can’t tell you the number of times people have said to me “I work best under pressure” or “When I finally have to do something, I dive into high gear. Procrastination actually helps me be more productive.”
Procrastination is one of the best forms of cyclical self-torture. And it’s a battle that begins in the brain. While the older, unconscious side of your brain (the limbic system) sees the tasks you’re procrastinating on as putting your hand on a hot stove (i.e. it wants you to run for your life and never do that again), the younger, more conscious side of your brain (the prefrontal cortex) is what allows you to assess and integrate information as you make decisions. While the limbic system runs on automatic, the prefrontal cortex has to be activated and consciously used. If not, the limbic system takes over.
Understanding the neurobiology behind procrastination serves one purpose and one purpose only: to convince you that procrastination is an ancient approach to NOT solving life’s problems.
It didn’t work in cave times and it doesn’t work today.
There’s something even deeper to consider when you’re not doing what needs to be done: self-worth.
You might know that you need to better manage your finances, lose some weight, change careers, start a business, end a relationships or write a book. You might have these things on a vision board, a to-do list or in some great day planner that you purchased from the latest self-help guru on your Audible playlist.
You might have your Google calendar blocked off appropriately with a day and time for everything that you ‘say’ is on the top of your priority list.
But then you don’t follow through… and not following through on Monday leads to not following through on Tuesday which leads to not following through for the week, the month and eventually for years.
What’s up with that?
How is it possible that you KNOW what you need to do but you can’t seem to get yourself to do it?
Beyond the fight with your limbic system and prefrontal cortex, there’s another, deeper answer to that question: You don’t think your worthy of the best.
Here’s the thing about procrastination:
We procrastinate as a means of self-sabotage.
We self-sabotage ourselves into mediocrity and call it ‘average.’ We live at ‘average’ and have no trouble with that because everyone around us is living there too… and then decades pass and we look back only to wonder, “Where did all the time go and why am I still in a spot in life I don’t want to be in?”
You’re committed to not following through and staying ‘average’ because somewhere along the way, you learned that you don’t deserve better than that… which isn’t true.
So how do you shift that? How do you shift 1- the commitment to being mediocre and 2- the whole limbic system/prefrontal cortex fight that’s been going on in the human brain for a very long time?
1. Pick ONE goal to focus on
Pick one MAJOR life goal that, upon achievement, will make every other goal easier to achieve and COMMIT to focusing on that ONE goal UNTIL it gets done.
2. Get real with your self-sabotage
Have a get-it-together talk with yourself where you get real with how you’ve been holding that goal hostage by believing that you don’t deserve it. What’s at the core of your self-sabotage? Why haven’t you made achieving this goal your #1 priority? What thoughts, feelings, and beliefs keep getting in the way of you consistently pursuing and achieving this goal? What’s kept you committed to arguing for your limitations rather than advocating for your highest good?
3. Devote 1 to 4 hours a day of focused time to your goal
Schedule 1–4 hours a day at least 6 days a week to work on this one goal during the first part of your day. If this goal is as important as you say it is, it should be handled and worked on first and before anything else in your day happens (including work- just so you know).
4. Work with an accountability partner
Get an accountability partner who will stay in contact with you and hold your feet to the fire. You need someone who’s going to help you counter that inner critic that keeps chirping in your ear and telling you that you aren’t good enough. You need an accountability partner who’s going to help you assess your plan, your strategies, what’s working and what’s not working.
5. Use Mel Robbin’s 5 second rule
Use the 5 second rule to force yourself to take the daily massive action when you say you’re going to take the action. In The 5 Second Rule, Mel goes over why you cannot hesitate for longer than 5 seconds before taking an action. Longer than 5 seconds signals to your brain that you’re afraid, that you’re in danger and then the reptilian part of your brain kicks in and does everything it can to halt you from taking the action.
And let’s get clear on this: life is not about you ‘feeling like’ doing something. It’s about you committing to taking an action and taking the action when you say you will. Whenever you have doubt or fear, count backwards from 5 and, within those 5 seconds, get up and take the action NO MATTER HOW YOU ‘FEEL.’
At the end of the day, your life will be the result of your consistent, daily massive action over a LONG period of time. When I say over a LONG period of time, I’m talking years, not months. To achieve a massive goal (ex: building a business, creating a fantastic relationship, growing a healthy, nurtured family, becoming a lawyer, a doctor or a teacher, changing careers, moving from one part of the country to the other and loving it when you get there), you have to do the work for a long period of time. It’s not a one and done thing.
Give up the notion that there are shortcuts, boot camps or the Cliff Notes version to any major goal in life. There isn’t.
The answer to achieving any major goal in life is the consistent, persistent pursuit of that dream with the kind of heart, mind, and focus that the dream requires. Nothing else will do. Nothing else will get you there.
And, remember, the battle to a dream or goal has nothing to do with anyone else. In life, it is always you against you and while the limbic system has a long history of winning over the prefrontal cortex, keep in mind that you always have a choice… and when you consciously activate the prefrontal cortex on a daily basis, guess which one wins?
That’s right… Your dreams do because you achieve them…
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