How to beat procrastination
You are preparing for an audition. This time you are going to do it right. Only… you find yourself keeping busy with a million things except the very one you are supposed to be occupied with: preparing for your audition.
Everything seems to get bumped up your priority lists, and you have a very good reason for each and every thing you do instead of working on your programme:
- Not feeling in the mood to practice now.
- Waiting for the right inspiration.
- ‘Knowing’ you work better under pressure.
- Believing you cannot concentrate if you don’t do those other errands first.
These are of course excuses and it is important to recognize and label them as such: awareness is the first step to change this potentially crippling habit.
We procrastinate when we put off the things we should be doing right now, in favour of doing something more enjoyable or that we are more comfortable with. For instance, endlessly planning how you are going to tackle a task. Or deciding you will first check your Facebook. Oh… I have to answer that email… You get the picture ;-)
“The decision to work on something is driven by how much we value accomplishing the project in that moment – what psychologists call its subjective value.”
Says Elliot Berkman, Ph.D. (assistant professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon and director of the Oregon Social and Affective Neuroscience lab.)
“When we write that procrastination is a side effect of the way we value things, it frames task completion as a product of motivation, rather than ability. In other words, you can be really good at something, whether it’s cooking a gourmet meal or writing a story, but if you don’t possess the motivation, or sense of importance, to complete the task, it’ll likely be put off.”1
Why we procrastinate
Procrastination is not solely a matter of having poor time management skills but rather can be traced to underlying and more complex psychological reasons.
Most of them can be reduced down to the pleasure/pain principle which says that we do things to gain pleasure and to avoid pain.
“Procrastination is often a self- protection strategy. If you procrastinate, then you always have the excuse of “not having enough” time in the event of your failing, so your sense of your own ability is never threatened….We avoid doing work to avoid our abilities being judged.”2
A thought, for those among us who believe they work better under pressure (ahem…yes, guilty as charged): if you have never completed an important task comfortably before its deadline, and had time to review and tweak it, you cannot know if you really ‘do better’ under pressure, right?
What to do: 3 steps
You can train (and trick) yourself into being more productive. The key points are:
- become aware you are procrastinating
- identify why you do it
- take action to overcome it
Procrastination is a symptom, you need to find the source. Some people use willpower to interrupt procrastinating. Unfortunately this is not a long term solution, as they have done nothing to understand why they procrastinate. Also, willpower can exhaust you and make change all the harder.
Dan Heath (Senior Fellow at Duke University’s CASE center, founder of the Change Academy), explains the concept in this video:
Ask yourself instead:
- what are the long-term benefits of putting off practising?
- are these benefits helpful?
- can I achieve the same benefits through other tasks?
2. Identify why you procrastinate
- Fears (success, failure, judgement, unknown)
- Impossible expectations
- Negative, critical self-talk
- Low self-esteem
- Feelings of inadequacy, frustration, boredom, overwhelm, unfulfillment
- Lack of focus, confidence, purpose, adequate resources, self-compassion
- Rationalisations: Do I really need to practice now? I’m just simply too tired right now…It’s too difficult because…I will do it tomorrow because…
3. Take action
1. write down
What do you experience when you think about starting your practicing session, but find yourself postponing it? How is your energy level? And your motivation?
be aware of your self-talk: how do you talk to yourself? Make it a habit to talk to yourself in ways that remind you of your goals and replace old, sabotaging habits of self-talk.
>> read more on this here: http://www.tizianapintus.com/lets-not-talk-about-that/
2. have a strong why
Have clearly defined goal in mind. Why do you play? What is the message you want to share? The clearer and more compelling your why, the easier it becomes to act. Choose something you feel passionate about, a big purpose.
3. set your goals on paper
Writing on paper inspiring goals is a fundamental key to building lasting long-term motivation. Goals must be specific and measurable. You must work out how to divide it in clear steps so you can work steadily and constantly on reaching the goal.
4. visualize your goals
See yourself practicing and playing the pieces you are preparing exactly how you like them. And enjoying your playing. Psychological research has proven that our brain can’t tell the difference between visualization and reality. By visualizing the outcome in advance, you will plant the motivation in your mind, before even starting your (physical) practice session.
5. use the ‘Pleasure and Pain’ principle to motivate yourself and beat procrastination
Find ways to associate pleasure and gains with practicing, and associate a great deal of pain and loss with the habit of procrastination. For instance, ask yourself what will happen if you practice now and visualize the potentially successful outcome associated with it.
6. break down the task
Work in chunks, use the (10+2)x5 formula, created by Merlin Mann. Practice 10’ minutes, 2’ break repeat 5 times. Treat yourself… take it from the top :-)
7. perfectionism gets in the way
Perfectionism gets in the way and keeps you from even getting started
>> read here how to overcome that: http://www.tizianapintus.com/the-magic-of-imperfection/
Maybe you need to upgrade your skills. If so, make sure you invest in yourself, ask for help if it is available.
9. support network
Find an accountability partner. You can help each other remind yourselves about the reasons why practising now is important and necessary for achieving your goals and therefore your ongoing happiness and fulfillment. Or maybe you may need someone who can listen and provide you with a different point of view. And support you in your preparation. This is where Coaches come into the picture ;-)
10. create an inspirational board or reminder
A picture of an inspiring musician or teacher. Or a quote that inspires, energizes and motivates you.
11. be enthusiastic
It is difficult to procrastinate when you are enthusiastic about music and playing. Find that fire back and keep it alive.
When you are determined to complete a task, no obstacles will stop you. Make sure you have set clear goals that you are passionate about and that move you emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically.
13. practice self-compassion
Talk to yourself with kindness. Accept your fallibility and be your own encouraging coach rather than a negative critic.
Rediscover your joy
Rediscover the joy and delight of playing and see how that will help you solve the problem of procrastination. That’s much more than to-do-lists and willpower will ever do for you.
Resources & links:
1 Elliot T Berkman Ph.D.: Why Wait? The Psychological Origins of Procrastination
2 The McGraw Center: Understanding and Overcoming Procrastination
- Adam Sicinski: OVERCOMING PROCRASTINATION
- Shana Lebowitz: You aren’t just lazy — these 7 psychological theories explain why you procrastinate
- K. Stone: Overcome Procrastination Once and For All
- Overcoming Procrastination Manage Your Time. Get It All Done.
- Blake Thorne: Good procrastination and how to use it
- VIDEO: Prudential: Brain is to Blame – Episode Two: I’ll Do It Later
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