Overcoming Procrastination


What is procrastination? Basically it is the desire on one level to do a task and then the refusal on another to actually do it!

What is the effect of Procrastination?

When confronted with the idea of doing a job this internal conflict can be experienced by a person as anything from "butterflies" in the stomach, a desire not to "do it", to a complete physical paralysis from being overwhelmed by fear! But how does procrastination originate? It can quite easily be understood in terms of the function and roles of the conscious and subconscious mind and an understanding of "comfort zones" which are your current habits and ability to do work.


The Influence Of The Conscious And Subconscious Mind on Procrastination

The Sub-Conscious mind Your mind has two parts each with separate functions: there is the conscious part, which is 12% of our mind, and the sub-conscious part, which is the other 88%. The conscious part is the one we readily identify with. It is our "doing action state". It is what we use to perceive the world and to make decisions such as "I want to do my tax return". The subconscious mind is responsible for storing our memory ("the last time you did your tax return you had to pay a large amount of tax!"), plus habits ("I can never understand how to fill in that darned tax return!"), personality, self-image. Also it controls our bodily functions (notice you don't have to consciously think about doing these things).

The subconscious mind retains a primitive mechanism, which records the "experience" of every situation you encounter. This is called "conditioning" If you either anticipate (think about) or actually experience that same situation again, those previous feelings will be re-experienced emotionally in the form that it was originally recorded which can be either a positive or negative emotion - for instance fear ("I really hate doing tax returns!"), anxiety or love. This mechanism forms part of the way we learn.

Comfort Zones

Comfort Zone People seldom procrastinate over doing jobs which they enjoy. However people are known to procrastinate, or "put off" doing tasks if there is a new component, a difficult task to perform, or there is something else they would rather do. Procrastination is therefore an uncertainty or fear associated with doing something new, difficult or unpleasant, which can occur even though you may have the confidence to do it! Firstly, what is involved when we are learning something new? Your "comfort zone" is your current ability to perform the current job. In being able to perform any job you have also formed supporting habits.

When you expand your comfort zone there is always a need to understand a new skill and practise performing it (to form the habit). Procrastination arises through the subconscious activating a fear or reluctance to go through this process of learning (this reluctance can appear independently of your conscious desire to perform the task). Why does this happen? It is simply the function of the subconscious mind to alert us to past situations where we experienced stress as part of learning. These stresses may have been a feeling of vulnerability experienced while learning something new or feeling embarrassed by the mistakes we have made and criticism we received for making them. The actual reason as to why this feeling of fear exists does not need to be understood (the past can just simply be let go). All that needs to happen is that suitable mental exercises be performed which will erase the feelings of reluctance and imprint the new conscious desires.

Let's now consider an example which illustrates the above points. Say for instance you are not the best at learning and find study for exams difficult. Because you find study difficult you are less likely to study and revise regularly throughout the year because it is not an enjoyable thing to do. By doing this you inevitably find yourself having to "cram" in the final weeks for your exam. Cramming for a subject invariably creates considerable stress, frustration and uncertainty about your true ability to pass the exam.

The subconscious meanwhile has recorded this entire stressful experience in relation to your ability to study as a "remembered stress". This "remembered stress" can accumulate and continues to be experienced as a greater reluctance to study which needs to be constantly overcome. This is why some students who consistently place themselves under this kind of pressure finding themselves unable to "face their books" or study anymore. The very thought of study subconsciously brings forward the associated feeling of this "remembered stress" and anticipates it being experienced again. The feeling of this anticipated stress can sometimes become so strong that the student no longer wishes to study.

Accordingly a person may have a conscious desire to perform a task but will still experience an overriding subconscious fear or reluctance to do it.

Therefore several skills are required which are taught in the Life Skills Seminar

  • An ability to neutralise remembered stress
  • A deliberate approach to develop and rebuild motivation towards a goal

You May Ask "How Effective Are These Techniques?"

Here is what one of my seminar participants had to say.

Dear Sandy,

I thought I would write to you again, thanking you for the help you and your course has given me and secondly to update you on overcoming what was for me a profound procrastination habit. As I have mentioned to you earlier I had always been full of great ideas and a belief that I could do the job, but always when embarking on a new endeavour I would eventually become fainthearted, frustrated, negative or just lose interest. There was always a good explanation in my mind for why I was doing this but another part of me (my conscious self?) could see an undeniable pattern emerging which I could no longer ignore if I really wanted to get on with my life and contribute in the way I knew I could.

So I spent hundreds of hours reading every kind of psychological, philosophical, and self help book imaginable. Although these books gave me wonderful ideas and a clear insight into this issue, they were of course unhelpful in assisting me to actually overcome the challenge. What I needed was the mental tools which enabled me to focus my mind and a method for erasing the old subconscious patterns. However I did not realise this until I actually attended your seminar and applied what you said! Looking back it was a close thing that I actually attended your seminar. I only attended because a friend of mine keep insisting! I thought I knew everything about the conscious/subconscious relationship (what I didn't know was how to actually apply it!). I remember attending and still not being convinced about what you claimed you could achieve, but at the end of the two days you had told me of things I didn't know and reminded me of things I had forgotten and inspired me enough try. However in my heart I really didn't believe it would work, because what you said conflicted with the modern psychological approaches and after 8 years of trying different approaches - I thought it would taking something dramatic to bring me out of this rut (like a lightening strike!) not some silly two day seminar! There was also a part of me that wanted to prove you wrong!

Well as you know the very next day, as I began to apply your techniques I began to experience a miracle confrontation and then transformation within myself which has changed my life forever.

Now a year and a bit since completing your seminar (twice) I can look back on the most profound, remarkable personal journey which has seen a large part of me completely transformed (there is always more work you can do on yourself!). Gone are the old attitudes, negativity, hang ups, excuses, self doubt, sadness, depression and difficulties. One by one each one of these demons which have dared to stand in the way of my dreams, goals and aspirations have been hunted down and eliminated forever. Now my mind is truly locked in and focused on accomplishing the task at hand and 14 to 18 hour days of work are now commonplace for me (maybe I should come back and learn how to relax?). I now know behind the mind of every procrastinator beats the heart of a workaholic and I also now laugh at the solutions put forward by modern psychology in this area as your work is easy to understand and unbelievably simple to apply. I'm sure the reasons why other people may procrastinate are something only they can understand (only after learning how to inquire within themselves) but it has been for me a need to overcome this area, a need to actually understand myself better, to love myself and my work more, to develop a more disciplined mind which is able to focus clearer and relax and release stress (I can get a bit impatient with myself when I move at a million miles an hour!) as I develop new habits and skills.

I wish you and every other seminar participant who is interested in facing this concern every success.

Again thank you for all your help.

VJ Duckmanton, NSW


So What is the Next Action Step that You Can Take For Overcoming Procrastination?

CALM makes suggestions on how you can develop your skills in dealing with Overcoming Procrastination using Sandy MacGregor's low cost Tapes, Books, CDs, Videos and Seminars which have been utilised by thousands of people successfully since 1990.


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