Most people attribute procrastination to laziness or some other negative personal trait. They label themselves as “programmed to fail” or lazy. All negatives and NOT at all the problem. Procrastination is actually a positive way we protect ourselves from loss!
Lets say you had never been parachuting and you found yourself in a plane at 6,000 feet. Lets imagine someone strapped a parachute on your back, opened the door and told you to “jump.” You would not jump – you would “procrastinate” from jumping. Why? Out of a desire to avoid death and protect your life! Since you don’t know how to parachute you would naturally feel fear and would then procrastinate from jumping out of the door of that airplane. That would protect your life and procrastination would be a very good behavior.
Most situations are not that dramatic and the harm is not as clear to our conscious mind. In the typical world we procrastinate to avoid being made a fool of, losing money or time. Our sub-conscious picks up on danger, generates the feelings that cause us to hesitate and in the end procrastination protects us.
The mechanism is that we automatically desire to procrastinate when we are trying to do something where we are not confident that we know what we are doing or that we think will put us in financial or emotional danger. The “feeling” is generated subconsciously which is why it can be a little tricky to diagnose.
This “feeling” is from our subconscious and it is a “feeling” because our subconscious cannot advise us in words, it advises us via “feelings.” In the instance of procrastination we will “feel” fear and a lack of confidence. The task in front of us seems “hard” and “overwhelming” so we automatically procrastinate to avoid losing money, time or being made a fool of. And that will protect us from loss because the negative feelings associated with the activity cause us to procrastinate as long as possible. We may never do the task at all. Of course if we procrastinate and avoid doing the necessary tasks of our business we will never succeed. So we need to overcome procrastination.
We need to put ourselves in a position to feel confident that what we are procrastinating is actually good for us and our well being. That comes from learning “how” to do the thing we are not confident about and practicing in a low-risk environment. Meaning where failing has low financial and emotional costs. Do what I call “batting practice” and build your knowledge and confidence – you will then do the activity readily and without procrastinating.
In one of our businesses we have people who have to cold call prospects. They are afraid to do that, especially at the beginning. So we give them a call script telling them exactly what to say and we have them practice with a stand in for a real prospect. Then they graduate into cold calling on very low value leads where the costs of failure are very low in terms of a lost opportunity. Finally after they build confidence they move onto the higher value leads. For your business model this – have someone stand in playing the role of real estate seller or whomever else is your prospect. Then once you feel confident in giving your pitch move up to low value prospects and practice some more. Finally move on to your high value prospects once you are confident.
You can speed this process along if you can find an experienced person to coach you. Be sure this experienced coach has some incentive to help you. Either they win financially or they are paid for doing the work or they are getting some emotional benefit from coaching you. If helping you is “free” from them – meaning they get nothing from it, then their coaching will be worth exactly what they get from it – nothing.
If you cannot do any of the above activities to solve your negative feelings that are causing your procrastination then get someone else to do the activity.
And forget just pushing yourself – your negative feelings that cause procrastination are there for a reason – to protect you from loss. Honor them and either gain your experience in a low-risk way or get someone else to do the activity. Absent implementing one of the solutions I recommend you will just procrastinate and spend your time kicking yourself emotionally. Neither of which will move your business forward.