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Do You Procrastinate?

You’re about to begin an important project — and suddenly all the chores you’ve been ignoring demand immediate attention. This happens whenever I head towards my computer for some serious writing. Dishes, laundry, plants that need repotting – anything and everything keeps me from my desk.

According to recent studies,
we ALL procrastinate.

For twenty percent of us, it is a chronic problem in our lives. Procrastination makes us feel weak or indecisive —and later on, guilty for not doing what we said we would. Want to overcome this? Here are my methods.

  1. Ask Yourself WHY You Are Not Getting “X” Done.
    • Whose idea was it? Maybe you are trying to please someone else but it isn’t what you WANT to do. In that case, can you graciously refuse? How about delegating this task to another person?
    • Do you need more preparation or information? Bring yourself up to speed and then try again. I found this worked in writing this article. I couldn’t get near the blank page for several weeks but ideas “stewed” in my subconscious and spilled out when I finally sat down to write.
    • Are you ready emotionally?
      Often we tell ourselves to do something that sounds logical but balk at the task because we aren’t ready on an emotional level.

      For instance you receive a request for an interview from a prospective employer but can’t get yourself to call him back for days. The reason? You still need to come to terms with your recent lay off and sense of betrayal at the way you were treated.

      One way to tell if you’re ready: when you picture yourself doing or meeting “X,” you feel calm, not anxious or upset.
    • Face your inner conflicts
      Get in touch with your inner conflicts by brainstorming. To do this, place your question in the center of a piece of paper and write out your key thoughts, not stopping to think about them. For example your question may be, “What’s stopping me from completing my new business plan?” and the quick answers may be: “Alex doesn’t think it’s a good idea – maybe he’s right” (self-doubt); “What if it takes off? I’m not sure I can handle the extra work!”; and “What if the business fails?”
    • What are you afraid of?
      Fear is one of the underlying causes of procrastination. Often this is a fear of failure or of not getting it right. You may be a perfectionist and find it easier to put off doing something than to do it at a substandard level.
      Allow yourself to start off badly
      and then work to improve.
  2. Deal with Your Resistance.
    • Listen to Your Resistance.
      What is it telling you? I always procrastinate when I need to write promotional copy for myself or my services. Why? I have to first see the value in what I am doing before I can advertise effectively. Maybe you need to do something else BEFORE you tackle “X,” like having a serious discussion with your partner.

      Also pay attention to your energy level. If you are forcing yourself to do something when your energy is really drawn elsewhere, consider switching gears.

      Before I started life coaching, I wanted to write a personal growth column but my energy just wasn’t there. I gave my attention to the life coaching instead and the ideas and focus for the column came one year later!
    • Conquer the Resistance Monster.
      Some people are paralyzed by their resistance. They are too intimidated by the task at hand to even get started. To conquer such strong resistance, use the “Swiss Cheese Method.”Take one small, easy step towards your goal;
      stop immediately if you feel queasy.
      Later take another small step.
      For example, if you want to switch to translation work but feel overwhelmed at the prospect of change, research the Net. Then speak to someone who is already in the field to find out more. Whittle away at that slab of resistance until it’s full of holes. This works well if you are venturing into unknown territory. The more you learn about your goal, the more familiar and less intimidating it will feel!

  3. Make a Decision.

    Eliminate the words “try” or “should” from your vocabulary! Look at what you want to accomplish, after considering the reasons for your resistance, and decide if now is the best time for your project. Make a decision to postpone it if appropriate. Think in terms of “do,” “do later” or “not do at all.”

    If you say to yourself that you are “trying” to do something, and then you don’t do it, you disempower yourself. See yourself as someone who makes solid decisions.

    When you commit to something, honour it. What you gain in self-respect will pay dividends.

  4. Prioritize and Dramatize.

    Of course you are facing a multitude of demands on your time – we all are! Put this task at the top of your list, as a “must do,” or it may remain at the bottom forever. Give yourself a deadline and work towards it.

    Some people stay on track by using two lists. The first itemizes the high priority and time sensitive stuff. The second list contains low priority items like updating files or ordering a new book. They handle items on the high priority list daily and periodically go through the low priority list to choose something at random that they feel like doing now.

    For many people, a sense of urgency is needed to accomplish their goals. If this is you, dramatize the importance of doing “X.” Picture the headlines: “MESSY SOCK DRAWER RE-ORGANIZED” or “JAIL TIME AVERTED; OVERDUE BILLS FINALLY PAID.”

  5. Avoid Distractions.

    It’s easy to be tempted away from your task by distractions like TV, the Internet or invitations to socialize. Many successful people habitually seal themselves off from the world to work on their pet projects. Remember, what you don’t accomplish today will be there to greet you first thing tomorrow. Wouldn’t you rather just get it DONE?

  6. Get support.

    Many procrastinators join groups or link up in a “buddy system” to motivate themselves to accomplish their goals. When you tell others what you are planning to do, and at the next meeting must account for your actions, you quickly run out of excuses. Also, there’s nothing like a little encouragement to get you moving!

  7. Break It Down.

    Many times the tasks we find the hardest to begin are overwhelming when looked at in their entirety. I remember how intimidated I was when writing my first novel – until I learned to outline, and then to focus on one chapter at a time, then each scene.

    Draw up a game plan, with reasonable deadlines for each phase of your work. Remember to check off every step you accomplish in order to acknowledge your progress.

  8. Just BEGIN.

    Don’t wait to be “in the mood” – just begin. I’ve learned to do this in my writing. I allow myself to write a really bad first draft, just to get going. If I stare at the blank page, trying to find the perfect place to start, I freeze. So take a step, any step, towards your goal. You will most likely feel compelled to continue.

  9. Visualize Positive Results.

    See yourself with the finished product and FEEL what this does for you. Are you relieved, happy, excited? See and feel all of this in detail and do it on a regular basis. This alone will help to overcome your doubts and fears.

  10. Reward Yourself.

    When you must complete something you don’t relish, promise yourself a little reward. It could be something as simple as a stroll through the park or renting a movie. Looking forward to a tangible reward spurs motivation.

    You can also reward yourself WHILE you are tackling your task. For example, you can listen to your favourite music as you prepare your income tax returns!

    It is also important to allow yourself to feel good about your accomplishments. We tend to get down on ourselves for the things we HAVEN’T done instead of giving ourselves credit for our progress so far. Remember the little stars you received as a child for good performance?
    Create your own system to recognize what you’ve done,
    even if it’s checking items off your “to do” list
    with a green marker.

Next time you find yourself procrastinating, go through this checklist to see what’s stopping you and then kick-start yourself into gear. Still procrastinating? Allow yourself to do something enjoyable, with the proviso that you deal with your task later. Then come back and do it!