Overcoming Procrastination

May 26, 2014

First, before we get started, I need to set the record straight. Doug does not have this problem. He is the most dependable person I have ever met. Believe me. I depend on him. He writes articles, pays the bills, takes out the trash, works with clients and does the taxes. Some tasks he enjoys and some, well, not so much. It makes no difference; he takes care of all things in their time.

 

Given my penchant for procrastination, his abilities seem somewhat superhuman to me.

 

I am a procrastinator. There. I said it. It does not make me proud, but it is something I must admit. I have fought this issue all my life, and there have been times when I have lost the battle. I have picked out birthday presents on the way to a party and wrapped them in the car outside the recipient's house. I have written a school paper in one night that should have taken two weeks to properly research and craft. I have dried blouses with a hairdryer after doing a quick hand-wash in the sink because I, once again, failed to do my laundry. As I said, this does not make me proud. Instead, years ago I realized my procrastination actually cause me a great deal of stress. That is when I decided to change my ways.

 

While it is not easy for a procrastinator to change - as you can imagine, just getting started can be a challenge - it is possible. Here are a few reasons people tend to procrastinate and some tips and techniques to help us overcome:  

 

Problem 1: You feel overwhelmed. Sometimes when we feel consumed by the number of tasks on our to-do list we shut down. This can be particularly true when we face a large or complicated task. Instead of digging in, we put off. We tell ourselves that we don't have three hours to work on the task. Therefore, we should wait for a time when we have the necessary "extended period of uninterrupted time." As you can imagine, this luxury does not materialize.  

 

Solution: Break the task into smaller pieces. How does one eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Break large tasks into smaller pieces; ones that will take no more than 15, 30 or 45 minutes to complete. Put these more manageable tasks on your to-do list and start the feast.

 

Problem 2: Bad timing. Often we procrastinate because we are trying to work against our bodies natural rhythms. When you are tired, it becomes easy to play the role of Scarlett and put things off. After all, tomorrow is another day.  

 

Solution: Play to your best times. Determine when you are at your peak. Are you a morning person? Do you feel most alive in the late afternoon? Do you get a second wind after dinner? Perform difficult, complicated or distasteful tasks at these peak times. You will be less likely to delay.  

 

Problem 3: You hate the task. Everyone has tasks he or she detests. Perhaps it is cutting the grass, paying bills or cleaning the cat box. As Doug says, no one likes cleaning the cat box! Whatever the task, when you truly hate them, they become easy to postpone.

 

Solution: Give yourself a reward. Combining a distasteful task with a reward can help. Mary Poppins was right. A spoonful of sugar does help the medicine go down. It doesn't have too cost much or anything at all. Promise yourself a glass of wine on the porch, a bubble bath or that Netflix movie you have been dying to watch. First; however, you must complete your task.  

 

Problem 4: You need to have a greater sense of urgency. Do you need critical deadlines to get the task started? A lot of us do. If you find yourself waiting until the last minute to start on things or you are always late getting tasks completed this may be your issue. 

 

Solution: Create false deadlines. If you have your watch or a clock set five or ten minutes early, you are already using false deadlines. Be truthful. Every time you look at your watch, you do the math. It isn't 9:00 it is only 8:50. It isn't that we are fooling ourselves into thinking it is later than it really is. Instead, the incorrect time reminds us to try to be on time. It increased our awareness. You can do the same thing with deadlines. Tell yourself that the report is due on Friday morning instead of Friday afternoon. Tell yourself that you only have 30 minutes to complete the task. Then, hold yourself to these new deadlines. 

 

One last suggestion: If nothing else works, remind yourself of other times when procrastination has caused you stress, regrets or humiliation. When you find yourself procrastinating, try picturing these less pleasant times. It may jump start you into action.

 

The ability to put things off is an art form for many of us. Don't let your procrastination get the better of you. Put these techniques into action and git 'er done!

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