Procrastination is defined as “to put off till another day or time; defer; delay” and can paralyze even the best of us. Without a strong defense of personal habits that propel success, procrastination can sidetrack a good project and make mincemeat out of a busy schedule.
First, a personal note on procrastination: I am a recovering procrastinator. It’s out there, I admit it! Like someone with a substance abuse issue, I am never fully cured but see myself as a “work in progress”. I admit that I enjoy procrastinating for what it provides in the moment.
The In-The-Moment Feeling
Let’s face it, we wouldn’t put things off unless it felt good on some level. I don’t have to deal with that right now… Unfortunately, putting things off always comes back to haunt us. Like the bad knee that needs replacement or the fractured relationship in need of repair, we put off things that are uncomfortable or perceived as “too hard”.
Hiders or Pilers
Most of us deal with difficult tasks in one of two ways: we hide them or pile them up. Hiders don’t want to deal with things and put them out of sight. Pilers can bear seeing them and walk by them in an attempt to ignore or defer responsibility for the task. I tend to hide more than pile so for me I need to force myself to tackle things before they tempt for me to hide them. Filing paperwork is one of the things that I hate to do so I try to file things as I go rather than let them pile up.
Strategies for Overcoming Procrastination
- Map it out. Draw on paper or a writing board what the project will look like. Just putting it down in bubbles or squares will help your brain understand the project and what it takes to get it done.
- Write it down. Get into the habit of writing things down, no matter the stage of the game. Don’t let a thought escape when it comes to getting something done. For example, if you have a birthday party coming up and have a quick thought about what Sheila will like for her big day, write it down. A few weeks later, when you are shopping for her, you’re much more likely to press the “recall” button and find that perfect gift.
- Ask, “what’s the next action?” Momentum is super important when it comes to productivity. If you can honestly figure out what the absolute next step is in a given project, the likelihood of success if increased exponentially.
- Tell someone about it. Why not “go public” with a tendency to put things off. Having a workout partner practically ensures that you’ll go to the gym so why not replicate this with your work habits?
- Identify patterns. If you hate to file paperwork, recognize this and attack it with zeal. If shopping for gifts is something you detest, figure out a different way of doing it. Some people with social anxiety find internet shopping a great way to get things done. The more patterns you can figure out, the more you can solve. They may never disappear entirely but you’ll be able to make some serious progress.
- Review your project list often. Stay on top of your 30, 50 or 100 life projects. Look at this list weekly and keep the momentum in high gear. If you can’t deal with something in the next week, schedule a time when you will be able to dedicate more energy and creativity.
Resources for the Road