In recent survey of all the people on our mailing lists, we asked what were the two biggest problems you would like some help with. Procrastination was the number one response.
Almost 500 people responded, for which I thank the responders very much. We intend to use your responses to provide you with what you requested. I will devote today’s post to explaining precisely why most attempts to stop procrastination fail, what really causes the problem, and how to stop it for good in just a few hours … if you don’t procrastinate doing what’s necessary!
Why procrastination is a problem
First, let’s remember why it’s so important to stop procrastinating and start doing what we want to or need to do.
- Procrastination limits what you can achieve. It is a barrier to accomplishing most things you wish to accomplish. When you stop procrastinating, one of the biggest barriers to doing and having what you want will be gone.
- It harms relationships. If you’re late all the time, if you don’t do what you say you’ll do, or if you’re constantly playing catch up, the people in your life just won’t trust you. And when you end your procrastination, you’ll regain this trust.
- It lowers your confidence. If you can’t be sure you’ll follow through on what you start, of course you’ll doubt whether or not you can reach your goals. And when you banish procrastination from your life, you’ll believe in yourself because you’ll know that you’ll do whatever it takes to succeed.
Why procrastination usually is so hard to get rid of
When most people try to stop procrastination they follow a strategy that boils down to Information + Motivation = Change (I+M=C). The reasoning is that if you know what to do and how to do it, and if you are motivated (positively or negatively), you will do what you need to do to take action.
Unfortunately, the formula of I+M=C doesn’t work a lot of the time to stop procrastination or to produce change of any type. If it did, everyone would wear seat belts, which they don’t. Everyone would keep New Year’s resolutions, instead of letting them go after a couple of weeks. People suffering from cardiovascular disease would all adopt healthy diets, yet many do not. Corporate training programs would be effective in changing worker behavior, but most are not.
A case history
A few years ago I had a client named Manny who procrastinated a lot of the time. He almost always left work projects until the last minute. As a result, he was anxious much of the time. Sometimes he would turn projects in late, which resulted in an upset boss. He decided he must change, and he really wanted to change. So what did he do?
- He prioritized his activities, assuming that it would help him focus on the most important projects.
- He made a schedule that helped him allot time during the month for work on the projects.
- He put up reminders in prominent places.
- He created rewards to give himself when he finished a project, such as a special dinner or a new item of clothing.
- He asked his friends to support him.
And yet, here he was, with all the information and motivation—and true commitment—in the world, telling me the problem was as bad as ever, begging me for help. Here’s what I told Manny.
I explained the I+M=C concept to him and told him that the reason it doesn’t work is simple. It is not an accurate description of what drives our behavior. I+M=C can’t get rid of procrastination because it doesn’t address the true causes of procrastination. So what does cause procrastination? Beliefs.
Beliefs are nothing more than ideas we have about reality that we are convinced are “the truth.” They are, for us, accurate statements about reality. And because people are guided in their lives by what they think “reality” is, our beliefs about ourselves and reality mold our behavior, our emotions, and our attitudes.
What’s required for any significant change is not more learning, but unlearning. In other words, you first have to unlearn what you think is true that is serving as a barrier to change.
I asked Manny what thoughts he had when he was about to do what he knew he should do at work, just before he put it off and did something else instead. That’s one of the best ways to identify the beliefs that are causing specific problems.
He gave me the following list.
- What I do might not be good enough.
- People might judge my work badly.
- I feel uncomfortable when I think about doing the project.
Can you see that these thoughts and feelings were keeping him from acting? That most people with those thoughts and feelings probably would procrastinate, especially with important projects? But where were these thoughts coming from?
After a short discussion we found a number of beliefs that were causing the thoughts and feelings, including these three.
- I’m not good enough.
- What makes me good enough is having others think well of me.
- Mistakes are bad.
These beliefs (and several others) led to the thoughts and feelings that caused Manny’s procrastination. After he eliminated all the relevant beliefs, his procrastination stopped. And it never came back.
The beliefs and conditionings that cause most people’s procrastination
Here is a list of some other beliefs and conditionings that most people who procrastinate usually have.
- Mistakes and failure are bad.
- I’m not good enough.
- Change is difficult.
- What makes me good enough or important is having people think well of me.
- Nothing I do is good enough.
- I’m not capable.
- I’m not competent.
- If I make a mistake or fail I’ll be rejected.
- I’m a failure.
- I’m stupid.
- I’m not worthy.
- I’m powerless.
- What makes me good enough or important is doing things perfectly.
What you need to do to eliminate your procrastination
I’ve created an interactive web video program that will lead you through the process of eliminating three of the beliefs that keeps you from taking action. That way you’ll not only understand the process of change, you’ll actually experience it first hand.
If you go to http://recreateyourlife.com you will be helped to eliminate these three beliefs that are instrumental in causing procrastination.
For a description of the Lefkoe Belief Process and how it works so you can try to eliminate the other beliefs on your own, see two earlier blog posts:
You now know the costs of procrastinating, why you procrastinate, and what you need to do to stop your procrastination. All you have to do now is overcome your procrastination long enough to get rid of the relevant beliefs and conditionings. Once you do the problem will be gone forever. What are you waiting for?
Thanks for reading my blog. Please post your questions or comments about the cause of and the cure for procrastination. Your comments will add value for thousands of readers. I love to read them all and I will respond to as many as I can.
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Soon I’ll be releasing three videos on how to dissolve negative feelings in seconds – including the feelings that cause procrastination. To gain access to these videos, click here now.
Copyright © 2014 Morty Lefkoe