Procrastination is a major enemy of productivity and so it’s worth investigating.
I want to share with you a perspective that you might find valuable.
Do you find that you tend to put off starting a project, activity, relationship because you don’t feel ready, sufficiently prepared, thoroughly skilled, fully confident? Maybe you sometimes even find it hard to make decisions – period?.
All those who do not struggle with this – I envy you.
If you find yourself wondering if you are spending too much time deciding what you might do in a certain area (or all areas) of your business or personal life – while nada gets done – then this is for you.
Lack of taking action can not only result in stuff not getting done – more critically it can result in the feeling that you lack control of your life, your business or yourself and that can cause anxiety and stress that feed the monster.
I was taught to do it well, to do it right. Growing up there was not a lot of room for being wrong. Perfection was expected. Turns out that that is great when your life is dependent on doing it right – but expecting perfection (of oneself) can be a real obstacle if applied for example to business growth, relationship development or health improvement.
So what I have learned as a way to overcome indecision and inaction is to allow myself to do it “badly“ and instead to focus on doing and doing with an open, curious and inquisitive mind.
At the end of the day it’s pretty easy to review and see what action one has taken (or not) and to proclaim “I had a productive day” or “I spent another day researching the pros and cons for this relatively mundane decision“.
Even though I’ve learned that taking action normally leads to good results, I still have to monitor myself when I start procrastinating and checking to see if the lack of action is somewhere connected to feeling not good enough, insufficiently prepared, not worthy of the outcome, unskilled, unqualified – you get the picture.
If I do recognize that something like that is going on, I know the shortcut out is to just do something without any further ado by letting go of any apprehension I might have of not meeting the mark.
I don’t know about you but I have never felt 100% ready for anything. And in those circumstances in which I did believe I was prepared – I was unfortunately delusional.
The poet GK Chesterton wrote
“Anything worth doing is worth doing badly the first time”
And I’m not suggesting to do your worst. I’m recommending to do the next smallest step as well as you can and be willing to not have it be perfect but to be curious about what you can learn to make it better.
Not only will curiosity help you transform procrastination, but it will also make you more resilient to future perceived (or real) failures and to observe them as opportunities to improve and important steps toward your goals.
The word “badly” is of course relative. We often aim for perfection and the standards we set for ourselves can be too high to the point that they can be intimidating.
I don’t want to suggest abandoning your standards. The problem is really only that we often aim too high for that initial step and ultimately end up not taking timely action. I’m also not proposing to not take your moon-shot, aim for the stars or claim you X-Prize – I mean that most case studies suggest that it going to take a certain amount of trial and error to get there.
If you are prepared to do something “badly” it will accelerate your decision making and get you much faster into action. Try it out. Throw it at the wall and see if it sticks. Take the first smallest possible step. Do something, try something else, do what works again and soon you will see the perfection emerge. It is really the only way to optimize, refine, polish any result.
On the flip side if you spend hours, days or weeks over a decision, it can be become paralyzing and make us afraid to even begin. It stresses us out so we might end up abandoning action altogether.
Indecision, doubt, and fear are a product of inaction. It’s a vicious cycle.
Again: Inaction occurs when we spend too much time and energy on trying to do it “right.” This is especially true when doing it “right” is subjective. If we spend too much time fixated on doing it right, indecision becomes a habit, which can be moderately painful to break.
But break it we must, and we know, how: By repeating the behavior we want (to take action) so we can replace the behavior we don’t want (to procrastinate).