Do you have a tendency to procrastinate at times? Well, if you do you are not alone. Procrastination can be defined as deferring action and putting off doing things that your better judgment tells you should be done now. The fact is that many people do procrastinate to some degree – but some are so chronically affected that it disrupts their life. Such people may feel overwhelmed when faced with a challenging task. They prefer the misery of a non-productive state rather than the consequences of change and fear of subsequent failure. Given a new challenge, they may find it difficult to decide where to start from and will keep postponing the task, waiting for the “right” mood or the “right” time to tackle it. . Your attitude becomes similar to the ‘Free beer tomorrow’ signs in pub windows! You plan to do it tomorrow but tomorrow is always in the future. Of course, this is just a delaying tactic and it never works as you just keep delaying for ever. What happens is that as time goes by you may get caught up in a loop of ‘failures’ and this leads to a vicious circle that continues to reinforce your procrastination. If you are a procrastinator there is a possibility that you may also have a perfectionist trait. You may never be happy with your results and your List of To Dos may be endless. You may work as hard as other people but you just mismanage your time and invest it in the unimportant tasks. You may jump from one task to another without a clear understanding of what is urgent but not important, and what IS actually important. Perfectionist and sometimes even catastrophic thinking could run something like “I must get all this work done today or I’ll be a total failure. But there’s just so much work to do. I’ll just have to wait until tomorrow when I am feeling better and can do a better job.” Be aware of your actions or inactions. Do not let procrastination sweep a dark blanket over your Dream. Identify carefully how you are spending your time and do not waste the privilege that life gives you to make a difference – to live your true Life Purpose. Make sure that in your quest for meaning you do not end up trying to keep ‘busy’ and running frantic circles around urgent but unimportant things. If you find yourself procrastinating, ask yourself what the consequences are and if there are any hidden benefits that may be causing your behavior. You might feel that not cleaning up your garage is making you irritated because when you go in the garage you never manage to find the tool you need straight away. However the task may look daunting and watching TV could be more attractive. At the end you have to heighten your feelings of frustration to a level where you will not accept the garage looking a shambles.
So what are some things you can do to beat procrastination?
- Manage your expectations: You may be expecting to do too much in the time you have available. Do not plan long endless lists because you are planning to fail. Chunk down your activities into manageable and reasonable chores. Write a list of the items you have to do but make a definite and reasonable maximum of chores per list e.g. 10 chores /activities a day. Try to time your activities and leave ample time space for any surprises. One thing I find with people who procrastinate is that they find it difficult to time how long it takes them to do an activity and normally they underestimate the amount of time it takes to do something. The outcome – impossible lists that are too long.
- Start small: If you have several small items to do which are directly related to the work you need to carry out, do these first. Even though you may have some larger tasks left, psychologically it feels as if you have less to do when the list isn’t so long. It gives you a feeling that you have accomplished something. Just remember, it must be a task that is relevant to accomplishing your goal. Putting a new collection of stamps in your album may be a quick and easy task, but if what you really need to accomplish is to work on your thesis, you won’t be helping yourself!
- Tackle difficult tasks first as you become more efficient: Although it’s good to initially tackle small items it might be a good idea to shift the system as you start beating procrastination. As soon as you start being more in control start tackling the big and important rocks first thing in your day first. This ensures that the activities you really need to do are done immediately, especially those that may be unattractive to do. In other words- eat that frog!
- Focus only on your immediate goal. Put your focus fully on the task at hand and do not get distracted. Just become one with the task you are doing and put all your energy in finishing it with a clear attention to the activity. Do not jump from one activity to another. Finish what you started, take a small break and then move on to something else.
- Just do it! Next time you catch yourself saying, “I can do this later”, think Nike. Just do it! Push on through the feelings and do it now. If you find yourself dragging your feet to do it, just say to yourself ‘I will do this for 10 minutes and then I will stop if I want to’. Then start for 10 minutes – you will probably continue. The feeling you get when you finish will be so much better than any relief you get from putting it off.
- Pump it up! Choosing a particular music track to do a challenging activity can be a booster. The track should ideally be suited to the activity you are doing e.g. if you are doing an activity that requires energy and physical movement you can do an upbeat trek that powers your movement.
- Mark it off. When you have accomplished a task, mark it out on your list with a pen. It gives you visual confirmation that you are progressing and this gives you a psychological boost.
- Reward yourself when you manage to keep to schedule. Not only will this be a booster to help you deliver but knowing that you have finished your tasks will also make it easier to relax and enjoy your leisure time.
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