Imagine the space this article fills as blank.
Imagine the time and energy it might have taken someone who procrastinates to:
1) think about doing the article,
2) put it on a list of “to dos,”
3) talk about doing it,
4) promise to start it tomorrow,
5) promise to definitely start it tomorrow,
6) promise…well, you get the point.
As the deadline for the article draws near (it’s midnight the night before the article is due), imagine the stress the writer must feel as he or she brews a pot of coffee and sets up for a couple of hours to research the topic, organize the information, create an outline, come up with a dynamite opening line, write the article, rewrite the article, rewrite it again, print it out and rewrite it one more time. And, of course, the whole time he or she is beating their self-up for waiting so long to start and telling their self they’re not good at this job anyway and the article will be a bust.
This is procrastination in full, weedy flower. Delay. Broken promises and unfulfilled expectations. Feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. Worry. Fear. Stress. Overwork and probably not as good an end product as the writer would have produced if they’d tackled the job in a timely, reasonable, professional manner.
Procrastination isn’t good for anyone, anytime. So why do so many do it? Not just around such matters as filing income tax and completing holiday shopping, but with everyday tasks such as cleaning off the desk or straightening up the garage or starting a project at work.
The more difficult, inconvenient or scary the task is perceived to be, the more procrastinators procrastinate. They come up with semi-convincing self-talk that makes the delay appear reasonable, but in the end it’s a self-defeating behavior that causes all sorts of problems, not the least of which is stress.
Following are a few remedies to overcome procrastination:
1. Set goals. Decide what you want and what needs to happen to get it. Be specific. Create a realistic timetable.
2. Commit. Make a contract with yourself. Tell a friend or co-worker or family member your plan. Ask for help when you need it.
3. Set priorities. Make a list of things that need to be done in order of their importance.
4. Get organized. Have the right tools and equipment to do the job. Make lists. Keep a schedule.
5. Think small. Don’t let the whole of the project overwhelm you. Stay in the present and do what you are doing.
6. Break tasks into parts. The “Swiss cheese” approach to getting any major project completed is to break it apart and work on one piece at a time. Reward yourself when you complete one step.
7. Use positive self-talk.
8. Replace excuses with rational, realistic thinking.
9. Realize there is no such thing as perfection. Begin the thing knowing it can never be done perfectly. You’ll do your best. You always do.
10. Reward yourself. Often and generously for accomplishing the smallest of tasks. Celebrate. Pat yourself on the back. Enjoy your accomplishment.
Like many other self-defeating behaviors, procrastination can be overcome. The place to begin is where you are.
The time to start is now.
Terri O'Donnell is a certified Life Coach. She is an honest, straight shooter who is dedicated to using her training and experience to help people live the life they desire.