The Tragic Results of Weak Decision-Making –
We’re going to talk about how to stop procrastinating from a unique perspective here. When it comes to procrastination, we are perfectly able to take the action in question, it’s just that we’re not doing it.
Procrastination is the symptom of weak decision-making about how we will—or won’t—act. What often underlies our inability to act is that we haven’t yet identified what we’re really wanting. The limbo of procrastination comes from not having truly decided either way to take action or not to take action.
Sometimes we even procrastinate when we have a number of positive alternatives to choose from. The problem with this, neurologically speaking, is that our brain short-circuits in the chemical soup of our indecision. Then we spiral into a neural pattern that gets us further stuck in inaction, pessimism and sometimes even depression.
The big secret of how to stop procrastinating is to first clarify our goals through decision-making. If we’re backing away from making decisions because we fear we’ll make a wrong move, we’ll get stuck making no move at all.
The irony is that when it comes to our neural wiring, we’re at our best when we’re making any decision and aligning ourselves around it, even if it’s the “wrong” one.
So how do we get the chemistry of clear decision-making back on our side? Well, we have to be willing to do a little work with confronting an old, deep habit.
Our habit of deferring to others.
Whether it was our parents growing up, teachers, bullies when we were kids, or authority figures in our adult lives— many of us have fallen into a pattern of looking to others to make decisions for us, leaving us not really knowing what we want for ourselves.
Without that clarity, it becomes difficult to name our goals and intentions. The result is ambivalence when it comes to taking action, which we commonly call procrastination.
Here’s a simple three-step process that will show you how to stop procrastinating by applying your inherent freedom and capacity for decision-making.
Make a Not-Doing List
We don’t know who first came up with the idea of making a “not-doing” list. Many coaches, consultants and thought-leaders have embraced and written about the practice. We do know, however, that it’s a brilliant and simple concept that works wonders for focus, productivity and time management.
- Make a list of all the things you can think of that have been hanging over your head: unstarted or unfinished stuff you keep telling yourself you need to get to. This is your psychic “to-do” list that you’re going to get clear about by writing it all down. If you already have it all written down in a task management system, then refer yourself to your existing task lists.
- Now make a “not doing” list by taking five items off of your task list and making a decision to NOT do them,ever. In other words, you’re going to decide not to do them. Often with things we are procrastinating about we never do get to them anyway. Admitting this sooner rather than later frees our energy and attention for the things that are truly important to us. Plus, it starts moving our neurological chemistry in a really positive direction. Remember, this is altogether different from avoiding doing something. It’s deciding.
- Next, make a “not doingtoday” list by removing all remaining tasks that you’re deciding not to do today. What you’ll be left with is a list of items that you yourself have clarified you are going to attend to now. As you’re looking at the items that are left, if any of them remain in question with respect to your commitment to attend to them today, remove them and place them on the “not doing today” list.
What to Expect
The first thing you might experience is a sense of clarity and freedom. Then you’ll likely wonder if what you just did is really okay. Is it responsible? Am I making the right choices here?
As you attempt this exercise, you can expect that a character inside of you named the Waffler is going to show up. It’s going to start coming up with all the reasons why you shouldn’t remove items from your “doing” list and at the same time be fully fluent in reasoning why you can’t, shouldn’t, or don’t want to actually attend to things on your list
You can thank the Waffler for attempting to protect you from all the bad things that can come from making clear decisions: Will someone stop liking me? Will I miss an opportunity by saying no when I could have said yes? Is it going to feel hard to actually take this next step?
You can explain to the Waffler that any of those outcomes would actually be a welcome change to the exhaustion brought on by the habit of procrastination and indecision. Most decisions are not irrevocable anyway and you can back up and make a different decision if you need to.
How You Will Benefit from Making Decisions
The current findings of neuroscience reveal a fascinating picture of how our neural patterns and brain functioning impacts our attention and perception. Decision-making of any kind engages the prefrontal cortex, specifically the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and this helps to calm the limbic system and to overcome striatum activity in the brain. Without that prefrontal presence, we suffer the consequences of limbic overdrive and our clarity and our ability to act go down the tubes.
Simply put, our brain gets disabled, and this plays right into the hand of procrastination. Putting things off is a way of attempting to protect ourselves from all the things that might go wrong if we take the risk of participating in our world. But the truth is, protecting ourselves in this way makes us miserable.
Even more fascinating is how the state of procrastination and indecision impacts our mindset as we allow it to run its course. We actually start to see our lives in an ever more distorted fashion. Without realizing it, we become more and more blind to the best parts of life and become habitually focused on the worst parts.
Decision-making of any kind, even something as simple as permanently removing even one item from our mental to-do list, starts moving our capacity for a balanced outlook in the right direction.
In fact, you’ve already started this process by reading this article through to this point and even considering taking action on these suggestions. See, you’ve already stopped procrastinating.
Freedom means you are unobstructed in living your life as you choose. Anything less is a form of slavery.”
Go ahead – practice freedom.
Thanks for making the human race a little more free.