Overcoming Procrastination


Why do we put off for tomorrow what we can do today, even though it has the potential to improve our lives? When it comes to Life Design, procrastination is a huge obstacle and it’s one that many people never overcome. These people never make the changes that could improve their lives and instead remain stuck in their old patterns and circumstances.

When this happens, there is almost always one reason…Fear. 

How does fear come into play when it comes to procrastination? Let’s explore…

In his hysterical TED Talk, blogger Tim Urban describes his Instant Gratification Monkey-brain that is trained to seek activities that are easy or fun. Admit it. You have a bit of Instant Gratification Monkey inside you, right? We all do. Here is the thing. The Instant Gratification Monkey has a darker side, which is that we avoid things that we fear may be difficult or painful. If your goal is to procrastinate less, you must examine both sides. Are you ready? 

Start by identifying an area of your life where you find yourself procrastinating. I suggest starting with something simple and relatively insignificant. For me, this is doing my annual taxes, which I put off until the last minute every. single. year. Why do I do this? On the surface, doing my taxes doesn’t satisfy my Instant Gratification Monkey. But what is really going on here? Are there deeper fears at work here? I think so… 

  • I worry that doing my taxes will take a lot of time.
  • I worry that I’ll have to wade through reams of mind-boggling rules and regulations. This will be incredibly painful and I’ll feel stupid.
  • I dread the potential that I owe a pile of money to Uncle Sam.  


As I investigate these fears, I see they fall into two distinct categories:

  1. Fear of the Process
  2. Fear of the Outcome

Let’s address the latter. In this case, I worry that I may owe money but there is nothing I can do about it. I either owe the money or I don’t and this is true whether or not I do my taxes. I have no real influence over the outcome. I’m really just an ostrich, burying my head in the sand and hoping the problem goes away. This is a shadow tendency that I recognize about myself and maybe one that we’ll explore in a later conversation. For now, let’s focus on the more common, Fear of the Process.

When we fear the process, we are really worried that we won’t be able to make it to the point of outcome. There may be many reasons for this. Maybe we’ll get frustrated and abandon the project. Maybe we’ll discover we don’t have the necessary resources and this realization will be painful. Regardless of the reason, the process for overcoming this challenge is the same.  

You must devise a plan that absolutely guarantees success.

This probably sounds daunting. Plus, if you could do this, wouldn’t you already have done it? Right. Sorry. Instead of focusing on the full plan, we instead need to focus on a single step. The very next step that will move us in the direction of our goal. Not only that, your next step must be so simple that it is impossible to fail.

Let this sink in for a moment, because when it comes to implementing this technique, you will resist doing it with every fiber of your being. In a sense you’ll be tricking your defense mechanisms but, on some level, your inner Protector will know what you’re up to! The only thing to do is push forward.

Choose a next step that moves you in the right direction but poses no risk of failure. In the case of me doing my taxes, my first step might be to schedule a day when I will actually do my taxes. Put it on the calendar. Boom. Success. What’s next? You guessed it. Another impossible-to-fail-task. Sit down at my desk with the intention of doing my taxes. Done. Next? Download the tax forms from the IRS website. You get the idea. Simply follow this process until you’ve completed whatever goal you’ve set out for yourself.


There are a few reasons why this approach works:

  • We love completing things. There is something satisfying about getting something done, even if it feels like a small thing.
  • Momentum builds momentum. It takes a little force to get moving, but once you do it always gets easier and easier.
  • It’s never as bad as you feared. Our protector-brain is really good at catastrophizing because this is what keeps us in line.
  • Guaranteed success removes the fear. By making the tasks super-small, you can’t rely on fear as an excuse not to do it.
  • Direction is better than Destination. When you focus only on the next step, you are flexible to change direction if it becomes necessary. In Life Design, we never know the ultimate destination, so flexibility is crucial.


Call to Action 

Identify an area of your life that you know you would like to improve. Identify one micro-step you can take that will move you in the direction of improvement. Remember, this step needs to be something with zero risk of failure. If you have no idea where to start, try something like this…Spend one hour researching {insert your topic here.}


Just Do It.

Click Here to get a downloadable worksheet to help with your planning process.  


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