Bye-Bye Procrastination: 5 Tips for Reaching Your Goals
We’ve all been there.
We get super excited about trying something new or want to change something in our lives for the better, but at some point, we hit a roadblock or things start to get difficult. Then we get discouraged, tell ourselves we don’t have what we need to succeed and we bail.
All you have to do is look at the well meaning, but unsuccessful attempts, people make with New Year’s Resolutions, like starting a consistent workout program, losing weight, writing a book, learning a new language or actually sticking to the monthly budget they set up as last year’s resolution.
According to Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University and author of the book “Still Procrastinating: The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done”, those of us who aren’t finishers or tend to procrastinate aren’t alone. Nearly a quarter of the worldwide population are chronic procrastinators!
So, why are there so many of us challenged by finishing what we started?
You might be surprised to hear that Ferrari feels it’s not a time management issue. You can’t give yourself more hours in a day or push pause on your calendar to accommodate your To-Do list.
What you CAN do, is manage the way you prioritize the things you want to do in a given day.
Sounds like another item for the To-Do list, right? Improving prioritization requires its own amount of focus and discipline. It requires effort to track and identify the things that are filling our day and keeping us from having the energy or the inclination to finish a task, even one we truly want to complete.
It will come as no surprise to you that part of what creates this perceived “lack of time” is the sheer volume of things we are required to keep track of throughout our normal day-to-day lives.
In an article by Jane Porter on the subject, she quotes Gloria Mark, a professor at the University of California – Irvine, who says research indicates we’re interrupted, on average, every 3 minutes of the day because of distractions. Whether it’s a phone call, text, e-mail, TV program, a neighbor stops by or the dog needs a bathroom break, these activities add up in a big way by the end of the day.
Furthermore, Porter says, these distractions are “self-imposed”, meaning we have a choice in focusing our attentions on them instead of sticking with a project with a higher priority.
Another factor that contributes to a low completion rate is that we often don’t set specific completion deadlines for these tasks. Without a deadline, time just gets away from us and before we know it, we’ve added it to the “purgatory of incompletion” pile.
Turns out there are also some emotional and psychological ramifications that result from consistently leaving projects unfinished. We’ve all felt that sting of self-incrimination from knowing we could have done better in meeting our goals.
Not only are we feeling awful because we’ve “failed” to meet our goal, but often, we go down the “I’m not good enough” rabbit hole by starting up a negative internal dialog that only serves to fuel a sense of low self-esteem.
On the plus side, there’s a HUGE psychological boost to our sense of accomplishment and pride when we achieve a goal. It releases those wonderful endorphins, our ‘feel good’ hormone, into our system that helps relieve stress, support our immune system and gives us a sense of well-being.
These days, we ALL could use a healthy dose of that, right?
So, what can we do to increase our chances of finishing the tasks or projects that we feel would improve our lives or give us a sense of achievement?
Here’s what health professionals recommend:
1. Find an accountability partner.
Finding a person that you trust, who will hold you accountable to your tasks deadline, will increase your probability of completion by 65%! If you hold regular weekly meetings with them to go over your progress, it increases the probability of success to a whopping 95%! Wow!
2. Create a reward for yourself when you complete the task.
Sometimes we need a little extra something to look forward to, in addition to the thrill of completing the task, that will push us closer to our goals. We’re human after all!
So, find a reward that you’ll truly look forward to. It doesn’t have to be big, but make it meaningful. It can be anything from enjoying your favorite food treat, a shopping splurge for something you’ve wanted for a while or anything that you normally wouldn’t give yourself on a day-to-day basis. Maybe it’s even a trip somewhere (post-COVID of course!).
3. Set realistic steps to your goal.
One of the biggest challenges to completing a task is our sense of overwhelm if we believe we’ve set the bar too high and our goal is unattainable. So, before you start your quest, sit down and focus on setting up smaller steps that you know you can achieve and that can be done in relatively short periods of time.
The point is you want to set yourself up for success early and celebrate often. For every item that you check off that gets you closer to your goal, take the time to celebrate your achievement! No one says you can only get that feeling of accomplishment once you attain the larger goal.
It will encourage you to continue the quest and keep you on task.
4. Focus on progress not perfectionism.
Many of us suffer from perfectionism tendencies which only serves to limit our learning capacity and make it harder for us to achieve our goals. By setting unrealistic expectations on what success will look or feel like once we achieve our goal, we only make the process more difficult.
We put unnecessary pressure on ourselves instead of just enjoying the process, such as learning new skills, meeting new people or having new experiences that open our eyes to new worlds. We fixate too much on the destination instead enjoy the ride getting there. So, focus on the small wins along the way and allow yourself a little breathing room!
5. Set clear intentions and envision success daily.
Setting a clear intention in any goal is critical to the process of staying on task. Once you know the goal you want to achieve, get really clear with yourself about WHY you want to achieve it. What are the benefits you’re looking forward to experiencing? What difference will being successful in that goal make in your life?
With each intention, envision what it will feel like when you complete your goal. What are the emotions you’ll experience? Joy? Pride? A higher sense of confidence? Once you identify them, check in with those feelings every day. Not only will your body appreciate the positive endorphins these emotions create, your mind will also benefit.
Finishing a project or goal can have a significant impact on the way you perceive yourself and the way you believe others perceive you. It will inevitably seep into every other aspect of your life, improving your ability to see things more positively overall, as well as building your sense of self-confidence in handling future challenges.
So, get out there and start creating and manifesting your dreams! I know you can do it!