Have you ever found yourself pushing off tasks that seem overwhelming? Have you ever asked yourself “what if it’s not good enough?” or “what if I get rejected?” Anxiety is a future-focused emotion that you feel in anticipation of a situation that you believe will cause you stress. The situation hasn’t actually happened yet, but your mind is already planning for it by asking “what if?” Anxiety often leads to procrastination, because when you’re worried about something, it becomes scary to think about completing the task. When you avoid something long enough, your brain begins to believe that whatever you’re avoiding should be avoided.
Imagine that you have a fear of cold-calling potential business contacts. Anytime you even think about making a call, the thought comes in “if I make a cold-call and get rejected, I won’t be able to bear it.” The more you avoid calling, the more that fear is reinforced. Your brain gets the message that cold-calls really are unbearable. However, if you were to push through the discomfort and make the call, it would be challenging but you would notice that you can handle it, and the distress would pass.
Anxiety can also fuel low productivity and performance. When you leave things until the last minute it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Imagine you have been putting off a task you need to do for your business. You had a month to work on it and now the deadline is tomorrow. You put off preparing because it caused anxiety. You feared you wouldn’t do a good enough job and that your client would be disappointed. You were convinced that nothing you could do would be perfect. Now it is the night before and you have to rush to throw something together. You don’t have the proper time to put into it, so you don’t produce your best work. You present to your client looking unprepared and unprofessional, and she seems disappointed.
There are a couple of things you can do to overcome procrastination. The first one is to notice your anxiety by catching the “what if?” thoughts and recognize that those thoughts are holding you back from getting ahead in your business. You can try answering the “what ifs” and recognizing that while the worst case scenario would be uncomfortable (for instance, if you did get rejected), you would still get through it. The next trick to beating procrastination is to start somewhere…anywhere!! When you manage to start a task you are much more inclined to finish it. Instead of starting with the hardest part of a task, try something easy first. That way, you’ll have a little bit done and there’s something drawing you to the end. The uncompleted task will niggle away at you until you finish it!