The desk is cluttered, email inbox full, there are thousands of voice messages. Your head is pounding and all you can do is stare in a stagnant motion. You are frustrated, guilty, and stressed, but you just cannot reduce that growing to-do list. Procrastination leaves you feeling like your passions are engraved permanently below the “under construction” sign. Sounds familiar to you?
There’s always something we know we should do but we simply want to put it off. Many of us would rather do nothing because we’re too afraid of messing anything up. When things seem to be fine to go, we just don’t want to screw them up. Yes this is so wrong, and so I’m going to tell you what you can do to stop procrastinating.
The focus you put on completing a task determines your actions.
There are two ways to look at a task. You can do something because you want to make some achievements, win more and be better off; or you can do something because you don’t want to lose anything you’ve already got. These two types of motivation are called promotion-focus and prevention-focus.
Promotion-focused is the one who plays to win.
For people who are promotion-focused:
- They see goals as pathways towards advancement
- They concentrate on the rewards that will be accrued when goals are achieved
- They are comfortable and eager to take chances
- They are creative thinkers that work quickly and dream big
However, note that promotion-focused personalities are prone to error and are unprepared with if anything does go wrong.
Prevention-focused is the one who plays not to lose.
For people who are prevention-focused:
- They see goals as responsibilities
- They concentrate on being safe and are worried if they are not careful enough or do not work hard enough
- They play to hang on and not lose all they have
- They are risk-averse
- Work is thorough, carefully considered, and accurate
- They work slowly and meticulously
- They are not usually creative thinkers, but have excellent problem-solving and analytical skills
Most of us have a dominant motivational focus. Promotion-minded people may generate many ideas, but it takes prevention-focused people to tell the difference between good or bad ideas.
To stop procrastination, shift your focus to avoiding loss instead of winning.
Even though there is a dominant focus, most people wear both hats. An effective strategic balance is needed to get all you need when fulfilling tasks.
In Heidi Grant’s book Focus, she mentioned,
Prevention motivation is actually enhanced by anxiety about what might go wrong. When you are focused on avoiding loss, it becomes clear that the only way to get out of danger is to take immediate action. The more worried you are, the faster you are out of the gate.
So, if you want to get yourself to start doing what really matters, adopt “prevention focus”.
Think about the serious consequences of not doing anything at all, and imagine all the things that you will lose by not doing anything. Utilize your anxiety and fear to make you do what you’ve been putting off.
For example, if you’ve been wanting to declutter your desk because there’s too much stuff that you can’t really work on your desk but you’re afraid that it’s going to be a huge task and you have to re-organize so many things that you’ll end up messing up the situation, adopt “prevention focus”.
Fast-forward your thinking and think about things keep stacking up and leave you no working space at all, and that if anyone is visiting your home, it’s going to take you forever to tidy up the whole place. Then you’ll take some actions, even the smallest step like throwing away the broken stationeries in the drawer is better than doing nothing.