I suspect that we all know that procrastination is a sneaky thief that robs us of our time, energy, and productivity.
Yet it happens to us all.
It is totally normal.
It affects people from all walks of life, including women in ´midlife´ who often face unique challenges and responsibilities. Whether it’s managing a career, taking care of a family, or pursuing personal goals, procrastination can hinder progress and lead to feelings of frustration, self blame and overwhelm. However, by understanding the underlying causes and implementing effective strategies, we can conquer procrastination and reclaim our time, energy and productivity and improve our self esteem.
So, we are going to explore some of the key questions and offer some practical tips to help overcome procrastination.
Why do we procrastinate?
To effectively address procrastination, it’s essential to understand its´ root causes. Several factors can contribute to us postponing, delaying or never getting round to something.
One of the most common reasons is the dreaded ´fear of failure´ or the belief that we must meet unrealistic expectations also known as perfectionism. This can be exacerbated for us ´midlifers´ by hormonal changes which can also affect mood and energy levels, making it easier to put tasks off. This in turn can affect our confidence and self esteem creating a bit of a vicious circle. Additionally, the juggling act of multiple responsibilities often leaves little time for personal pursuits, resulting in procrastination or putting our own projects last. We can also procrastinate over something as we think we have loads of time, don´t see it as that important or actually don´t really want to do something.
It makes sense to pay attention to what we procrastinate over (especially if there is a repeat offender) and have some awareness around why.
How does procrastination impact us?
Chances are if you are ready this that you know that procrastination can have a significant impact on our lives and it can amplify some of the things we already may be experiencing in midlife. For example, it can lead to increased stress, lowered self-esteem, missed opportunities, and a cycle of uncompleted tasks creating a vicious circle.
The constant or nagging feeling of being overwhelmed can hinder personal growth, career progression, and strain relationships with ourselves and others. It can be helpful to recognise the detrimental effects of procrastination to motivate us to be aware of when we procrastinate and to take action. We just need to be careful that we don´t let ourselves spiral into guilt or shame which can keep us stuck in a negative spiral or loop.
7 steps to combat procrastination:
1. Give ourselves permission to do something without it being perfect. Just to do it, even a first stab at a project or just to try for 15 minutes and then we have made a start. Remembering done is better than perfect!
2. Set clear goals (where appropriate): Define specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals. Break them down into smaller, manageable tasks, and create a realistic timeline for completion. This approach enhances focus and provides a sense of direction as long as we check in with ourselves in the process. We can also do this with an accountability partner e.g. family member or friend so we check in each day or week over something we planned to do and when we do it.
3. Prioritise and delegate: Identify the tasks that are most important and tackle them first. We can also prioritise doing the quick jobs – as getting some quick wins is always a bonus and motivates us for more!
Delegate responsibilities whenever possible to alleviate the burden or outsource if necessary. Find it hard to ask for support or help? You are not alone, if this is new for you maybe try asking someone for something small, whether it is a family member or close friend. They can always say no if it doesn’t work for them (and vice versa!). By practising prioritisation and delegation it allows us to focus on activities that align with our needs, goals and strengths.
4. Experiment with a developing a routine: Establishing a consistent daily routine can help combat procrastination. Creating a schedule that includes dedicated time for work, family, self-care, and relaxation that are written clearly in your diary. By sticking to a routine, we can develop healthy habits and reduce the likelihood of putting off essential tasks.
Personally I find having a strong daily morning routine really helps me get my day started well and includes a foundation of self-care too so it doesn´t get shoved to the end of my to do list and I run out of time for it.
5. Break tasks into smaller steps: Large, daunting tasks are often a breeding ground for procrastination. To overcome this, we can break them down into smaller, more manageable steps. Celebrate small victories along the way, as they provide motivation and a sense of progress.
6. Embrace self-care: this does not have to mean having a soak in the bath or a box of chocolates every night. Self care is different for each of us. We can often neglect self-care, which can contribute to feelings of overwhelm and procrastination. If we can choose activities that promote physical and mental well-being, that nourish ourselves, such as exercise, meditation, journalling, creative pursuits, spending time outside, with friends and loved ones or whatever works for us. It is also very important to ensure we get enough sleep too. Taking care of ourselves enhances focus, energy levels, and overall motivation as we have genuine ´off´ time rather than always feeling like we are ´on´ (so switch off the phone and emails/social media!).
7. Does it need doing? Maybe it was a priority a month or week ago, but does it really need doing? If you have procrastinated doing, maybe it is not something you need or really want to do. Assess how much of your to-do list is really that important to you. Bear this in mind before you agreeing or committing to do something in the future.
I like this great tip – if someone asks you if you would like to do something whether it is a lunch out or a work project, before you respond ask yourself what would you say if it was something that you had to do it in the next week? If it is a ´not sure´ or a ´no´ for you, then ask to think about it to give you some space to decide for sure and get back to them.
How can we stay motivated and avoid the procrastination pitfalls?
Maintaining motivation is key when overcoming procrastination. Here are a few strategies to help stay on track:
1 Visualise success: Create a mental image of what achieving your goals or dreams will look and feel like using all your senses. Visualising success can help provide the necessary motivation to push through challenging tasks.
2 Find an accountability partner: As mentioned above partnering with someone, particularly if they share similar goals or interests can help keep motivation high. Regular check-ins and mutual support can combat the tendency to procrastinate.
3 Celebrate progress: Recognise and celebrate small wins along the way. Acknowledging accomplishments, no matter how small, boosts confidence and sustains motivation. It doesn´t have to be anything huge, just recognition that you have started, progressed or completed a task is something worth celebrating!
How can we overcome setbacks in our progress?
Setbacks are a natural part of any journey, and we may encounter obstacles that temporarily derail progress. Here’s some ideas on how to overcome setbacks:
1 Practice self-compassion: Be kind to yourself and remember that setbacks are learning opportunities, not failures. How does it help you to beat yourself up about something? Embrace the lessons and use them as stepping stones toward future success.
2 Review and adjust: Assess the reasons behind the setback and make necessary adjustments to avoid similar situations in the future. Reflecting on the experience can lead to valuable insights and improved strategies.
3 Seek support: Reach out to a mentor, coach, or supportive community to gain guidance and encouragement during challenging times. Their questions, support, insights and experiences can provide valuable perspective and renewed motivation.
Procrastination in a nutshell
Procrastination can be a formidable adversary, but we all, particularly midlife women have the power to overcome it. By understanding the reasons behind procrastination, implementing effective strategies, and staying motivated, we can reclaim our time, energy, focus, accomplish our goals, and embrace a fulfilling and purposeful life.
Remembering, every journey starts with a single step. Whether it is committing to being more aware of our procrastination triggers or committing to starting that project with 15 minutes action today.
Why not take that step today and let go of procrastination’s grip on your life?
Top Procrastination-busting questions:
- What do you think you procrastinate most or repeatedly over?
- Is doing xxxx important to you?
- Why is xxxx important to you?
- What is it costing you not doing xxxx?
- Why do you think you are procrastinating over xxxx?
- What would you say to a friend or child if they were procrastinating over something similar?
- What is one small step you could take towards starting on this today?
- After – How does it feel to take this small step?
- What are you going to do next?
As always, I would LOVE to hear your reflections on procrastination and what strategies you plan to use or have found effective. Please send me a comment below!