Stop procrastinating (but not before you read this blog)
Two local business friends recently came to my store, Total Awards & Promotions, for a tour. I’d invited them previously but the timing was never right. This time, as we walked through our production area, one of them said, “I don’t know why we put this off so long,” and our conversation morphed into a discussion about procrastination — a problem that affects many of us.
Kylen O. Lefave, personal wellness coach and blogger, writes in Life as a Human, “Procrastination is disempowering, eating away at our sense of self worth and essentially perpetuating a vicious cycle of more procrastination.”
In their book, Procrastination, Jane B. Burka, Ph.D., and Lenora M. Yuen, Ph.D., tell us that, “There are many ways in which procrastination can appear in people’s lives. Some people procrastinate in only one specific area and in every other area do just fine.”
They go on to say, “In contrast, some business people procrastinate in almost every aspect of their lives.” Excuses range from, “I don’t have enough time to do it all right now, so there’s no point in starting” to “I’ve got to organize my desk first” to you name it.
My two friends and I agreed that we are not the typical procrastinators. We only put things off when they don’t fit neatly into our 80/20 life and business segments. In other words, things we can get along without doing. But we all know or have worked with other business people who struggle with starting projects, and when they do they grapple with perfectionism.
I decided to ask a business and life coach friend about this “affliction” and how to handle it. She offered some common excuses people use for procrastinating, including:
- Waiting for all the puzzle pieces to be on the table before beginning;
- Waiting for things to be perfect; and
- Waiting for life to be perfect.
I also asked for some strategies for getting things done in a timely fashion. Here are some of her suggestions:
- Just get started. Nothing stops a procrastinator more than the start. Once you’re “in” the project, you’re more likely to keep going.
- Set priorities about how and when to do things.
- Make to-do lists but keep in mind that putting items on a to-do list can actually be an act of procrastination. Once a “dreaded” item is on the list, it’s best to start on that one first, if possible, so it doesn’t get put aside again.
- Manage time. Many people justify their procrastination by thinking there’s never enough time to accomplish it all. Figure out how much time is available for weekly projects. Make a list of all of your weekly commitments so that when you’re looking ahead you’ll automatically know how much time is available for working on the dreaded item. Set some realistic goals for the project and the write a statement that will keep you accountable for getting it done.
- Create criteria for stopping. Whether it’s writing X number of words, working for X number of hours, or whatever criteria you need to put in place, find the carrot that will get you started. Picturing what the project will look like when it’s finished can be the motivation to begin.
Kate Britt, a retired teacher, editor, and technical writer, who blogs at ponderthepreposterous.wordpress.com, tells us not to bump the more pleasant tasks off the to-do list. In a recent blog she writes, “I used to think that getting rid of my procrastination habit just meant facing up to the many tedious or annoying tasks I had been putting off. Sure, life is obviously more pleasant if we can avoid doing those things. Why do today what we can put off until tomorrow? Or so we think. But a procrastination habit can also make us put off doing more pleasant projects.”
Procrastination can become an art. With life, and its countless distractions it’s very easy to fall into unproductive patterns. Lefave says, “Whenever possible, make your tasks meaningful. Doing this increases your chances of success and helps make the process more enjoyable and fulfilling. This will help keep that nasty inner critic at bay and ensure that you are in a much better position to move forward in a positive way.”
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