As we envision a bigger life and try to break through our limits, procrastination can paralyze us. It happens to all of us. Dan Sullivan’s concept “Procrastination Priority” offers an inspiring process to move through it.
Removing Shame from Procrastination
It all starts with how we understand procrastination. In almost everything that I have read about it, it is portrayed as something negative, that we should get over with asap. Not exactly a helpful perspective.
I still remember the times when I was writing my master thesis. It took me forever to make progress and procrastination was really strong. That made me feel ashamed. The dangerous part about shame is that you start to think that you are the only one. Shame can isolate us and lock us in. The only way to get out is to talk about it.
We all struggle. Everybody procrastinates, just about different things. It is not something that we need to hide. Instead, once we understand how procrastination works, it becomes a very useful signal.
How We Get To Procrastination
Dan Sullivan says that procrastination is the price of ambition.
What we usually expect to grow from ambition is this:
Ambition -> Excitement -> Confidence
What actually happens most times is this:
Ambition -> Excitement -> Stopping -> Anxiety
Our expectations don’t meet the reality of life. We are missing a few steps in the middle.
So here are the steps:
- Ambition. It is a skill. We visualize a bigger and better future from where we are today.
- Excitement. As we imagine the results, we get excited, that pulls us towards the vision.
- Stopping. The moment we start thinking through what our next growth jump requires, we naturally stop. We realize that we have neither the capabilities nor the time to get to that higher level. Change and growth is necessary.
- Anxiety. Seeing what change is required scares us. We feel paralyzed and at the same time we feel a lot of uncomfortable energy. We have activated a lot of energy that is available for making a powerful commitment and for being courageous.
Procrastination -> Commitment -> Courage -> Capability -> Confidence
What if procrastination was just a signal that you have activated the energy that you need to move forward?
If you are sedating or distracting yourself with more comfortable or soothing things you undermine that process. Instead stay with the anxiety and go into the process with your best thinking ability.
First Step: Tell the truth.
There is always an intelligent reason why we procrastinate. Once we tell the truth about it, we can get over the shame and get awareness started. Tell the truth about who you are, where you are, and where you want to go. And why you procrastinate.
Second Step: Make an intellectual commitment.
The second step is to engage intellectually, not emotionally. As we are looking into our bigger future, we realize that we can’t stay the person we are and get to where we want to be. So we need to make a commitment to change.
We need a deadline with measurable improvement. The brain understands and loves deadlines. And if we can put a number to the improvement it will be clear that we reached another level. Choose one improvement that you can immediately move toward. Only you can know what the specific solution is.
Third Step: Courage: Move Forward Courageously
Start moving forward. Courageous people don’t have all the facts! Commit to moving forward with courage, even if you don’t feel capable. There is only one thing you need:
- Move forward towards your bigger goal, while you are scared and feeling uncomfortable.
Here is what you don’t need to move forward:
- complete knowledge (you will learn more as you go along)
- end-result capability (you will develop it in the process)
- sufficient time
- confidence (this will come when you achieve the goal)
This is how you have grown in the past and this is how other people grow as well. And as Brené Brown points out, there is a great reward: “We feel the most alive, when we are brave.”
Capability & Confidence As Results
As we move forward courageously while we are scared, we develop the capabilities that we need. And as we use courage and develop capabilities, our confidence grows. Confidence is not the starting point, but the result.
How To Be Courageous Everyday
Daily courage is essential, if you want to achieve big goals.
And procrastination can be a great signal where you need to apply courage. Dan Sullivan suggests a very simple way for determining our daily priorities for a courageous life. Instead of relying on complicated task management systems, you can rely on your own thinking and emotions to quickly determine the right priorities for your growth. This will simplify your life and make you grow ten times faster.
- Every night take a sheet of paper and write a list of 7 to 8 things that you are procrastinating on.
- Which ones have the strongest emotional bite? Circle only three. They are your priorities for the next 24 hours. Why? They are the most important things. And it is possible to transform your three biggest procrastinations everyday and this way you will continuously improve your sense of success, satisfaction and forward movement.
- Write down your three procrastinations. Quickly write down: Why am I procrastinating here? It might be a deficiency, an obstacle or lack of time. You will feel yourself moving forward and courage is coming.
- Then write down: Where do I have to be courageous here? If I pull this off: What is the measurable jump in performance and results that I will get from my new capability (that I am going to get out of this)? You will get energized by the future possibility.
- Then write down: What will my confidence level be if I’m willing to go through this discomfort now? If I stay with the anxiety right now, what is they payoff going to be in terms of feeling confident about myself?
- The next morning: Look at your three procrastinations and make sure to get them done so that you can give yourself a really great report at night.
- Do this everyday and courage will become a normal part of your life. Everyday that you transform your three procrastinations, you will envision yourself as a bigger person 24 hours later, you will be using courage on the most important things only and you will get energy and confidence as a daily reward. Dan Sullivan argues that this way “you’ll operate at the optimum level for a thinking, feeling human being with an ambitious future.”
You can find more on Procrastination Priority in Dan Sullivan’s book: http://now.strategiccoach.com/procrastination-priority