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“Procrastination is a mechanism for coping with the anxiety associated with starting or completing any task or decision.” -- Neil Fiore in The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play
I created the chart after reading Neil Fiore’s unique description of how procrastination works…how it is part of a larger cycle of emotions, starting with perfectionism and driven by fear. (What an amazing insight!) Here’s an example of how it works. When you get that big, important project assignment, you are overwhelmed by a sense of perfectionism. This is your big chance and you want to execute it perfectly. This leads to a fear of failure that stops you in your tracks. You procrastinate. After procrastinating for a while, you begin criticizing yourself. The longer this self-criticism goes on, the greater your chances are that you’ll begin to experience anxiety and depression, loss of confidence, and an even greater fear of failure! The only way you can end the cycle is to use what Fiore calls “the now habit.” Fiore recommends applying a set of “replacement thoughts” in order to develop “the now habit.” Specifically, you need to make these replacements:
- Replace “I have to” with “I choose to.”
- Replace “I must finish” with “When can I start?”
- Replace “This project is so big and important” with “I can take one small step.”
- Replace “I must be perfect” with “I can be perfectly human.”
- Replace “I don’t have time to play” with “I must take time to play.”
The point is that action, in itself, is empowering. It energizes you. You aren’t frozen in place anymore, procrastinating. You are in motion, pushing through your own fear, even if it’s to take a small baby step toward completing that complex project. One empowering thing you can do to remove the fear that keeps you procrastinating, is to simply trust your judgment. I discussed this topic in some detail earlier in The People Stuff part of this book. The main thing to remember here is that you have a perfectly trustworthy “internal wisdom filter” that will generate plenty of good judgments for you if you get out of your own way and simply trust it.
(Above: How your “internal wisdom filter” works and why you can trust your judgment! For much more on this topic, see the section above titled: “Trust Your Judgment,” as well as my supporting podcast. – MG)
Summarizing, to deal with procrastination, you need to:
- Let go of perfectionism. (Be human, create something that may be flawed, and understand that most projects involve lots of polishing and revision. So it’s okay if this particular iteration isn’t perfect!)
- Meet fear of failure head on and take some action, no matter how small, that moves your toward your goal.
- Recast your internal “self-talk” so that you are empowered, not victimized.
- Trust your judgment. You’ve earned wisdom through your experiences!