What is it that you are putting off doing?

According to research 95% of us procrastinate at some time and a massive 20% of us are subject to chronic procrastination – a condition that complicates our lives and is likely to result in us being less wealthy, less healthy and less happy.

Douglas Adams, one of the literary world’s most notorious procrastinators said this:
“I love deadlines – I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by”

When he died, in 2001, the book he was working on was reputed to be 12 years overdue!

So, what is it that we have to gain by putting off not only those tasks that we find difficult or tiresome but also those that, when we get around to them, we find enjoyable and fulfilling? After all, the energy expended in ‘not doing’ is often in excess of that expended ‘doing’.

And the reasons we give:

  • “I am a perfectionist”
  • “I’ m not in the right frame of mind today”
  • “I do my best work under pressure”

Do they really stack up when they support a method of working high in anxiety and accompanied by regret and self-recrimination?

Dr Piers Steel, author of “The Procrastination Equation” makes the suggestion that to overcome procrastination, you give a sizeable sum of money to an objective third party on the condition that, should you fail to complete a task within the deadline, they give the money to a cause you oppose.

What this strategy makes explicit is that, if we are to succeed in our objectives, the cost of ‘not doing’ needs to be greater than the cost of ‘doing’. Or, to put it another way, the gain from acting must be greater than the gain from delaying.

A Well Formed Outcome provides us with a compelling picture of our desired outcome and helps bring into the conscious mind the secondary gain – i.e. what we gain by not acting. Although I am unlikely to resort to giving sums of money to well-meaning friends, I can clearly see how adopting this NLP technique more widely can help me overcome my tendency to procrastinate and thus become a more productive (and less anxious) employee and colleague.

Written by this week's guest blogger, Brilliant Minds Associate Partner, Denise Potts


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