How often do you begin an important task and you suddenly find yourself standing in front of the coffee machine five minutes later? Are you feeling as though you’re are going nowhere fast because you simply can’t get started on that one task you keep putting off? Instead of moving forward, it feels like you’re stagnating and could be doing more with your life. It could be that you are guilty of procrastination.

When we talk about procrastination, it is the act of delaying or postponing an important task and what we end up doing instead is that we focus on less urgent, more enjoyable, and far easier activities instead. The problem with procrastination is that it can restrict your potential in life and undermine your career.

In today’s episode, we are going to figure out what is causing you to procrastinate and diverting your attention to other unproductive activities. I will share some simple ideas that you can use to manage your day, have you feeling more motivated, productive, creative and inspired to get you started on that very thing you have been putting off. You have one life and you have the potential for greatness. Let us help you beat procrastination today!

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In this episode

00:59 – Introduction

03:48 – The problem with procrastination

07:13 – The hard facts

09:15 – The science of procrastination

13:23 – Communicating our goals

17:44 – Lack of mental focus

18:25 – How to overcome procrastination

24:37 – Check your Environment

29:25 – Making the task more achievable

33:52 – Taking time out & setting an intention

36:37 – Conclusion

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Episode Transcription

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  00:59

How often do you begin an important task and then you suddenly find yourself standing in front of the coffee machine five minutes later? Ask yourself. Do you feel as though you’re are going nowhere fast. Instead of moving forward, it feels like you’re stagnating and could be doing more with your life?  Be honest here. Are you guilty of procrastinating? If your answer is yes, don’t be hard on yourself, procrastination is something we’re all challenged with at one time or another in our lives. We all go through periods where we feel like we might be stuck or in a rut. Then there are days we feel like we’re just going through the motions, we’re simply treading water. These feelings can be so frustrating but for as long as humans have been around, we have struggled with things like delaying, avoiding, being stuck and procrastinating on the things that really matter to us.

When we talk about procrastination, it is the act of delaying or postponing an important task and what we end up doing instead is that we focus on less urgent, more enjoyable, and far easier activities instead. Let’s be clear, if you are a procrastinator, it doesn’t mean to say you are lazy because when someone is lazy they have an unwillingness to do anything. So an example of procrastinating would be you have to do some prepping for your teaching day or rehearsing for a gig, but instead you end up being suckered into scrolling through your social media or end up doing a binge of your favourite Netflix show. So you have ended up wasting all that time, spending hours on social media. You aren’t being lazy in that moment in time, your focus has shifted into doing something important to something that is unimportant. There is a difference.

In today’s episode, we are going to figure out why you may be procrastinating and I will share some simple ideas that you can use to manage your day, have you feeling more motivated, productive, creative and inspired to get you started on that very thing you have been putting off.  

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  03:48

The Problem

The problem is that when you spend or waste something, you can never get it back. But when you invest something, it creates future value. So by procrastinating you are wasting time, spent in something you will never get back and you will never get a return on it in the future. We only get one shot at this life and we’re here for a short time and we want to make it the most fulfilling time and not a waste of time. I hate wasting a day. I even get so annoyed if I’m not feeling well and can’t do all the things that I planned for that day. That’s why I am so fanatical about my lifestyle choices, I am strict with my routines and schedules and I have my morning rituals that keep me in peak performance mode every single day. Not only that but I want my children and my grandchildren to be proud of me when I leave this earth. It’s about legacy for me. This podcast and everything I have ever achieved is my legacy to my family and to my community. 

During the pandemic, I believe it has brought out the best and the worst in many of us. For some, they have totally lost their motivation and have become guilty of procrastination. Being in isolation has given them the perfect opportunity to check out on life. Then you have others who have used the last twelve months or so, especially while being isolated to re -educate themselves, to learn a new skill, to re invent their careers, to reflect on their values and to revisit their purpose and life’s mission. 

Some time ago, I heard that in every tribe there are village elders and the village idiots. I choose to be that village elder. They are the ones in your tribe who uplift you, who are on your team, support and encourage you, offer you great advice, but most importantly they are the go getters and lead by example. The village idiots are the ones who are consumed by the chaos and the drama, who are negative, defeatists and procrastinators. This is not who you want to be, especially at the present moment in the midst of adversity. Now is the time to step up and become a village elder and surround yourself with other village elders. Be the uplifter in your in your family, in your community, teaching practice and be the one who is a formidable force to contend with in your community. 

Ask yourself, Is the amount of time you are spending procrastinating amongst the chaos and the drama far greater than the time you are being productive? You have a choice. You can spend your valuable time forecasting and setting up a future for yourself, your family, your business and your careers. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  07:31

You may think that I’m being dramatic, but here are the hard facts. The average person lives for 75 years and in that 75 year lifespan, this is how we spend our time. We spend 26 years of our lives sleeping. We spend eight years, shopping for groceries and clothes and everything else. We currently spend six years on social media or online and this figure is increasing by the month. We spend seven years lying awake in bed at night tossing and turning rolling around trying to get to sleep. We spend 11 years watching television, including Netflix. According to the current Neilson statistics, the average American spends an average of 28 hours each week, watching tv. That is the same as a part time job!! Just imagine how much you could accomplish with an extra 28 hours in your week. How much value would that add to your life? What kind of income stream could that create? So next time you feel that you are so busy or so in overwhelm, break down the hours you spend procrastinating and get real and stop playing the blame game. I dare you to do a check of where you are spending your hours.

You do the calculations. This is a great time to set yourselves up for your future. Stop procrastinating, seize the opportunity, add value to your life and be remarkable. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  09:15

The Science of Procrastination

Ok, that’s all well and good but why do we lack the self control to follow through and avoid the things we know we should be doing?  What is going on in that brain of ours that causes us to do one thing even though we know we should be doing another? We do this against our better judgment. But why?

Let’s look at some science here.  Research into behavioural psychology has revealed a tendency for the human brain to value immediate rewards more highly than future rewards. YES!!! I love this because it makes total sense!!! This is why when we set goals for ourselves, the present self, which is in the now, wants takes over, despite the very good intentions of the future self wanting to achieve those goals. 

Here’s an example. So let’s just say that I decide that I am going to start a long term savings plan and that I am going to save $100,000 for my retirement which is 20 years away. The following day, I go and have coffee with a friend in a shopping mall. I walk past a shoe store and I see a pair of amazing shoes on sale and I absolutely fall in love with them. I really don’t need them, but hey you all know how much I love shoes and I just have to have them. I end up buying the shoes and don’t end up starting my savings plan. That is because my brain valued the immediate short term reward of the shoes more than the future reward of my savings plan for my retirement which is 20 years away. My present self won out over my future self!  This is because the benefit of saving for my retirement is decades off. It is far easier for me to see the value in buying these amazing shoes more than putting away savings for a 70-year-old me. 

This is why people who are wanting to lose weight or write a book or learn a new program procrastinate because they are actually making plans for their Future Self. They are envisioning what they want their bodies to look like and what they want their life to be like in the future. The Future Self wants to be trim and fit, but the Present Self wants to eat a donut. Sure, everyone knows you should eat healthy today to avoid being overweight in 10 years time and the increased risk for future diabetes or heart failure is also years away.

When we are in that frame of present frame of mind, what we don’t realise is that being in the middle of procrastination is often more painful than being in the middle of doing the actual work. We feel the guilt, the shame, and the anxiety from procrastinating and these are usually worse than the effort and energy you have to put in while you’re working. 

The problem is not doing the work, it’s actually getting started and if we want to stop procrastinating, then we need to make this as easy as possible and trust that motivation and momentum will kick in once we begin.  Let’s talk about some really easy steps we can use to get started on moving towards a more productive and rewarding life.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  13:23

Communicating our Goals

You can start by communicating your goals with as many people as possible. Procrastination comes when we don’t have a high enough necessity to get something done, because we have not told people in our lives, about our goals, our desires, our dreams, our ambitions, and we don’t have people keeping us accountable. So if you’re struggling with being held accountable, you need to surround yourself with people who are driven, or who are experts at what you want to do and will give you a roadmap. You may need to get a life or business coach if that’s necessary for you. I have a life coach and she has been a life changer for me! She was ex law enforcement officer, who takes no hostages. I can assure you, she holds me accountable. There is no mamby pamby talk and there is no beating around the bush, and and procrastinating is not acceptable.

You need to have someone in your life who knows you well, and who knows what you’re wanting to achieve and then you must continue sharing your dreams, your goals and your aspirations with that person. It’s not something that we talk about much in our voice community. In sports, and in big corporations, there is a real culture around this and all these business leaders and sports people have life coaches and mentors to help them strategize, to lead and to win so they can be the best in their sport or in their job. We all need someone we can talk to and will hold us accountable. 

And if you don’t have anybody to report to, start by reporting to your spouse, your partner, your friend, your neighbour, but somebody needs to know what you are trying to get done. There is stagnation and suffering in silence. When we are not communicating what’s important to us, procrastination can set in because our reputation isn’t on the line. When our identity and our name is on the line, we have to follow through. No one wants their reputation tarnished.

And that’s what I do, I make the decision to do something, I share it with others and then I have to do it. I remember putting myself out on the line many times with friends and family members who looked at me and I am sure they thought I had lost my mind. If I didn’t tell people that I was going to be a singer, that I was going to start my own business, complete a PhD, write a book, start a podcast, I just would have procrastinated. And that’s what can happen but this whole idea of telling others, really works well for me because I don’t want to be called a gonna and that’s what we call those people in Australia. Those who say they’re gonna do this and they’re gonna do that and they don’t do anything. That is a gonna. I have no respect for those people because how can you trust them to do anything? How many people do you know that are like that? It drives me insane and I can’t stand listening to these gonnas. I don’t want to be tarnished with that brush.

And I think that’s why this is really important is if you’re not sharing these goals and dreams out in the world, with others, you will end up procrastinating. That voice in your head saying, That sounds like hard work. Who can be bothered? Will end up winning. But if you share with others that this is what you are going to do, it’s more likely that you will do it because you are being held accountable. So start spreading the word today!

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  17:44

Lack of Mental Focus

When we procrastinate in the moment, it can be that we’re not focused, because we’re unsure of what we need to get done. We don’t know what to do or it can be that we are totally disorganised. It’s not necessarily that we don’t have things to do, right? That’s not what procrastination is. It’s that you have things to do, but you just don’t do them. The reason you’re procrastinating is a lack of mental focus on what you’re supposed to do or you just don’t know what you’re doing. So you don’t end up doing anything? 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  18:25

According to the research, the ways to overcome all this issues is pretty basic. Here’s how and that is with the help of a three step planning process to help you have clarity and focus on all those important tasks that you keep putting off and I absolutely swear by this. I live my life by this. So many people say to me, oh my gosh, you get so much done. I don’t know how you do everything that you do. I get called a pocket rocket. Yes I have energy, but I reserve my energy on the things that I need to do and not the things I shouldn’t be doing. I am time efficient. I am not a time waster. I chose what I need to do very carefully and I don’t spread my energies too thinly. 

This is part one of the planning process, I go into everyday of every week absolutely clear on what I need to do, what I want to do, where I have to be and who I need to see and my planning for that week starts on a Sunday. I schedule everything into my planner by the day and by the half hour for that coming week. This might seem a little too much and it does takes discipline to create such a detailed planner every single week, and then once the week rolls around, it takes even more discipline to stick to it. But when I have that schedule, I can look at my week ahead and check, not only what I must do, but what I don’t need to do. So what are the things that I do not want to be on my schedule, what can I move, eliminate, reschedule or quit. These are things that may cause me to procrastinate, that will hinder my productivity and keep me from my needle movers. 

Having this allows me to be very intentional with my time, I even allocate my workout sessions and my coffee breaks in there. I love going for a half hour coffee break at my favourite café on my mornings off, so why wouldn’t I schedule that time? So it’s really important to your productivity to start planning your week in advance,  every Sunday, sit down and look at the week ahead and go be productive. 

The next part of my planning process is that I check my planner the night before. Did you know that your working day begins the night before? In order for you to begin your day where you really absolutely smash it out and get things done, it’s all starts the night before. And you shouldn’t do this the hour before you sleep because by then you should be powering down for sleep and you don’t want to go to sleep thinking about all the things you need to do the next day.  You should do this at say between 6pm and 8pm. This is the time your productivity starts.

The research shows that during those hours, this is when you start to go into that mindset to prepare for the next day and you must do this by writing out your schedule for the next day. It’s not enough to go through it mentally, you have to physically write down your agenda and your goals for the next day and if you do that mid evening the night before, it has been proven that you will procrastinate, less the next day.  How crazy is that? I think that’s because your goals and your agenda, have time to marinate in your brain, subconsciously overnight, and in the morning when, you already know what you’re supposed to do that day, you can just hit the floor running. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  22:28

Then the final part of the that planning process is in the morning. Once again you must always begin your morning by going over your schedule, and your goals. It is so important that you never, never, never just show up to work without being fully organised and without that plan. You need to have a plan or you may just end up procrastinating. You need to be very clear, really clear in the  morning, about what are things that are important that absolutely must get done that day, and why. And if you don’t do that. Yes, you may still be productive and yes you may still be great at what you’re doing, but you will not be as consistent as you could be. 

It doesn’t need to be for long, I just spend 5 minutes every morning, while I eat my breakfast just looking at the day ahead. Literally, it might just be, that I may only have five things I have to do that day, but I will spend a few minutes thinking about each of those five things so each one of those is surrounded with clear intentions of the outcomes that I want to achieve. 

So follow this three step plan by scheduling your week in advance on a Sunday, review your schedule the night before so it allows you to make changes if needs be as you may find that you have to move or add things and then the morning of, revisit your schedule again and spend a few minutes setting intentions for those tasks that you have planned for the day ahead. And what you’ll find is you will stop procrastinating. Remember, a lot of procrastination is either because of lack of focus or just feeling overwhelmed. You are far more focused when you have a plan, and you have less overwhelm when you have a plan. Once you have a plan for your week and your day ahead, it’s not so scary. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  24:37

Check your Environment

Your environment has an impact on your productivity and this may be causing you to procrastinate especially in the workplace. So you cannot underestimate the power of your surroundings. This has been proven to be a cause of procrastination and time wasting. According to research, your work environment, that is your work space, or your work location, including the commute, really does impact on how much you procrastinate. 

Here’s some fun facts. Did you know that people who work in dark rooms, tend to procrastinate more than those who work in well-lit rooms. If you work in a place that you don’t enjoy going to, you will procrastinate more than those who love their surroundings. 

If your environment is too noisy and full of distractions, all these things will impact on your productivity and procrastination will set in and you will find yourself standing at that coffee machine. You are not going to be inspired in that space. So check out your environment because these external factors can kill your inspiration and your motivation in one way or another. 

Some of you may think this is a cop out and you don’t believe that external factors should be used as an excuse for procrastination. You may believe that in life you have to be self motivated. Yes that is true to a certain extent, but I truly believe that no matter wherever we are at, we have to find great engagement and joy in our surroundings. We all need to find a place we can go to get the job done.

I have taught in dance studios and performing arts academies in teaching rooms where the noise from the dance class next door killed my productivity and my ability to focus on my teaching. This is how I started my teaching career and I soon realised this was not going to serve me or my student standing in front of me. The pounding of the bass through the walls and vibrating on the very floor I was standing on was killing me. Things really became overwhelmingly difficult when there was a tap class on in the room next door. You want to try that one! This killed my productivity, my creativity and my inspiration to work. I don’t think I delivered my best teaching in those surroundings even though I was trying my best!

Procrastination can especially be a problem if you’re working from home. And if this is you and you are finding it difficult to work from home for whatever reason, then you have two options, firstly, you can try to find another room or dedicated space in your home where it is set up specifically as a work zone with no distractions, somewhere you know you can go to, to get things done, your phone is not there, the TV’s not there, the dog is not there, so it’s a great environment that keeps you on target with what you need to achieve. If necessary you can put a sign on the door that reads, no parents, partners, pets or pals past this point! Don’t you love that! If you find that you are still easily distracted no matter which room in the house you go to, you may have to find a work place outside of your home. But no matter where this space is, inside or outside your home, you need to show up there on a regular basis and work, otherwise you will keep procrastinating. You need to schedule to go to that place and be proactive in achieving those things that need to get done.  

So, if you’re struggling with procrastination, be sure to check your environment. Ask yourself is it a place that is set up for you to get on with the tasks you need to achieve? Do I enjoy going there, and do I have a schedule for going into that space? If not, obviously it could well be the reason why you are procrastinating.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  29:25

Make the Task More Achievable

We need to make the task more achievable. As I said earlier, the problem with procrastination is usually focused around starting something. It’s great to have big goals to aim for, both within your professional and in your personal life. But if the distance between where you right now and your goals is too great, you might be setting yourself up for procrastination. You find yourself stuck because it’s too all too much and you don’t even know where to begin. This is why we need to look at your goals and break them down into smaller more manageable bits, especially if you are feeling in overwhelm, because if you believe that your goals are achievable, it’s easier to get started, then you will be less likely to procrastinate.

Ambitious goals can be inspiring and motivating at first, but they can also be intimidating if we don’t have smaller steps to make them achievable. But before breaking down your goals into smaller steps, you need to define your goals properly, This means that your goals should be as precise as they can be, and should not just be kept in your head, you must write them down and put them where you can see them often. I keep mine in the bathroom and I have no choice but to look at them. Um yep! I think you get the picture!

So let’s go back to the example of saving $100,000 for retirement, 20 years away. This is a huge amount of money. It is so hard to start saving that money if you look at it as a lump sum and it is so easy to procrastinate but if break it down into smaller chunks it doesn’t seem so bad. You may decide to save $416 per month and over 20 years, you have your $100,000. Done and dusted!! This way, having a clear structure and a more manageable savings plan, it doesn’t seem so overwhelming and will help reduce procrastination.  If that milestone is still too big, you can break it down further. You can put aside $100 every week instead. 

Then be sure to make a list of specific tasks necessary to achieve your weekly or monthly milestone and write these in your weekly planner. When do you get paid? What day do you plan to put aside this money and make it the same day every week to help you stay on track? Do you have to physically go to the bank? Consider all the tasks around the milestone and get into a routine with them and be sure to prepare everything you need. The key to success is good preparation. In this case, do I need to open up a savings account? Do I need to research which bank is offering the best interest rate? Am I going to invest the money in shares, if so which shares? Try to anticipate what you need to complete every task, from practical things to professional help. This will ensure there are no set backs by the time you want to start your savings plan. 

Preparing adequately for each task and getting the necessary support will save you time because you will be ready to roll up your sleeves and get started right away.Once you are prepared, this will stop you from spiralling into procrastination. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  33:52

Take time out to release the tension and Set the intention

When you feel stuck or you find yourself procrastinating, take time out and go for a walk. This is so basic, I know it sounds like, your old fashioned type of wisdom, but it actually works. Taking time out can inspire a tremendous amount of creativity, and the highest level of achievements in all artists, musicians, composers, songwriters across every realm possible. The highest achievers tend to go for a walk, when they’re stuck, and they do it proactively. 

Your walk needs to be outside, out in the fresh air getting those rays on you and this will help you immensely when you’re stuck. Next time you feel like you’re procrastinating and you’re stuck, immediately get up, leave go for a walk, and release tension. 

When come back, increase intention. Sit down, close your eyes and breathe, and if you want, you can try meditating. It can be a short, two minutes, or maybe five minutes of breathing or meditations, where you simply sink into your chair, close your eyes and try to release all the tension in your neck and your shoulders and your whole body. As soon as you get to that point where you feel like you have released most of that tension in your body, you can now start setting an intention for what it is you are about to do. I am about to start teaching my next student and my intention is to deliver the highest quality teaching and be totally focused on that student and be responsive to what that student needs as she walks through the door in that moment in time. 

Now it’s time for you to open your eyes and go for it. And that’s what I mean by release tension and set intention. Next time, you are in your teaching studio, or sitting down at your desk and you want to be more creative. Close your eyes. Release the tension in your body, and set intention for the very next activity. If you learn to do this every time your butt hits the chair you’ll find that extraordinary level of energy and focus and creativity will come back in that moment. I promise you it’s really, really powerful. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  36:37

Conclusion

The problem with procrastination is that it can restrict your potential in life and undermine your career. In the workplace, it can disrupt teamwork, your family, reduce morale, lead to isolation and even lead to job loss. This problem is real!! You don’t want that for your life. So, it’s crucial to take those important steps to prevent procrastination.

So, from now on no more excuses and no more procrastination! Right now there is the opportunity to make positive changes and it’s about letting go of chaos and drama. You have one life and you have the potential for greatness. Use your time to become the CEO of your family, your business, but most importantly your life. Stop procrastination and start focusing on leading the life you dreamed, being the person you imagined and accomplishing your life’s mission.  Life is short and there is no time for regret. 

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