Do you ever find yourself putting off until tomorrow what could probably be done today? If so, I highly recommend this great book from productivity guru Neil Fiore. It’s packed with Big Ideas to help you understand and overcome the “do it later” habit.
How Perception Affects Procrastination
One of the first things Fiore points out is that procrastinating tendencies are often triggered by unspoken fears.
To illustrate this, Fiore asks you to first imagine a solid board that’s 30 feet long, 4 inches thick and 1 foot wide. It’s lying on the ground ahead of you. Your mental task is to walk the length of the board. Given that it’s just resting on the ground, you probably won’t be inclined to put it off.
Next, Fiore suggests imagining that same board has been raised up high in the air and is suspended between two tall buildings, about 100 feet above the pavement.
“Look across to the other end of the board and contemplate beginning your assignment,” he instructs. “What do you feel? What are you thinking about? What are you saying to yourself?”
Fiore suggests taking a moment to notice how your reactions in this situation differ from those you had just a moment ago, when all you had to do was walk along a board that was at ground level. Notice how rapidly your feelings about the task change when the height of the board changes and the consequences of falling are greater.
Isn’t it amazing how often we raise a board up in the air and freak ourselves out? This is what happens when we think we have to be perfect before we start, or we’re never going to be able to do a task well enough — suddenly that simple, step-by-step exercise seems risky and dangerous. It’s the same board, but our fear of failure just raised it sky high.
The truth is, getting across the board always requires putting one foot in front of the other. It’s only our thoughts that paralyze us — by convincing us that a single faulty step could put us at real risk.
Finally, Fiore expands on the scene by having us imagine that the end of the board we’re standing on is on fire. Now what? Most likely, we’ll do whatever we need to in order get to the other side, or at least get away from the heat!
Unfortunately, that’s how we live our lives at times — procrastinating to the last minute and then making a frantic dash when we’re really desperate.
So the first thing we need to do when procrastination strikes, says Fiore, is tame our fear through more effective self-talk. This helps lower the board back to the ground, or at least create a virtual safety net so we’re not being controlled by a fear of falling to our death. Then we can get a task going before any fires start!
Next: 4 Ways to Stop Procrastination