“Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.” – Mark Twain
It’s easy to make jokes and laugh about procrastination, but I think most of my clients struggle with it from time to time. Tim Urban, a popular blogger and a TED Annual Conference speaker, says, “For a real procrastinator, procrastination isn’t optional, it’s something they don’t know how to not do.” If you feel that way, read on. Or you might decide to read the article later. (Yes, I’m winking.)
Procrastination is Easy
The bottom line is that we always think that there is going to be more time to do something and so we idle. I do it, myself. I recently took a vacation and carried along a big file of “stuff.” As of the third day, I had been “too busy” to do any work. That included the morning I spent three hours surfing the internet in my workout clothes, before I finally made it outside for a walk.
Technology certainly makes it easy to procrastinate. It’s a handy distraction that can keep us entertained for hours, if we let it. Whether we’re updating our Facebook status or searching for a new recipe on Pinterest, social media is a strong pull. From streaming movies to reading books, our devices can distract us from important tasks at hand. Sometimes, we simply want to be mindless . . . to escape. Certainly movies and books are a healthier outlet compared to things like drinking. But why does mindlessness win out over mindfulness? Let’s take a look at the things we procrastinate doing.
What Do We Procrastinate Doing and Why?
Tax time just came around, so doing taxes is going at the top of the list. Anything unpleasant, like going to the doctor, getting out of a bad relationship, quitting smoking, etc. can be added to the procrastinator’s list.
Then, there are the things that fall under the “I’ll do it when” excuse. As in, “I’ll start running when I get a set of headphones” or “I’ll start writing my memoirs when I get a new laptop.” We want conditions to be either right or perfect before we make a change. Perhaps we have that backwards? Maybe the conditions don’t become right until we start making the change. Charles Swindoll says, “The habit of always putting off an experience until you can afford it, or until the time is right, or until you know how to do it is one of the greatest burglars of joy. Be deliberate, but once you’ve made up your mind – jump in.”
There are a myriad of other reasons for procrastination. Here a just a few:
We have a fear of failure.
We don’t know how to do something.
We simply don’t want to do the task or the thing we’re putting off.
Sometimes, we get in the habit of procrastination. Who thinks to themselves, “I work better under pressure?” That’s probably because we’ve learned the habit of procrastinating. We wait until the last minute to write the report that we’ve know about for three weeks. Instead of parceling out our time and tackling pieces along the way, we wait until the last day and frantically cram several weeks of work into a few frantic hours. The question to ask is this: Do we really work better under pressure or are we in a habit that needs to be broken?
Some of us may work better with a deadline, but a managed deadline is different from procrastinating and putting a project off until the last minute. A deadline can be thought of as a useful tool for managing our time.
If you’ve made up your mind to do something and you’re ready to jump in, now what? Below are some practical tips that can help you kick the procrastination habit.
Help for Procrastinators
1) Write a mission statement and include:
This is what I’m going to do.
This is how it’s going to be helpful.
This is how long it should take.
2) Set milestones and a final deadline – having mini-deadlines along the way will allow you to break up your task or project into smaller, more manageable pieces.
3) Find an accountability partner – someone you trust who will give you honest feedback
4) Find people with similar interests or needs – for support and inspiration
5) Allow yourself forgiveness for mistakes, setbacks, and false starts – keep in mind what you can learn from setbacks and failures
6) Set up a reward system – we procrastinate less when we are more motivated. How do you like to be rewarded? Find your currency.
7) Finally, there’s an app for that! Technology can be a major distraction and a tool for procrastination, but it can also provide valuable help. Check out the iMood journal. It reminds you two to three times a day to check in with how you’re feeling, and can help you see how good making progress can feel.
Chances are, your procrastination habit didn’t start overnight. It may take some time to curb yourself. Be patient and reward yourself for progress. You will procrastinate less when you’re more motivated. Find your own currency as far as what your reward looks like. It could be as simple as treating yourself to a healthy smoothie from the local juice bar or it could be going out to dinner to celebrate. Whatever works for you. Just remember, it’s about progress, not procrastination. Let’s kick the procrastination habit. Now!
“The best way to get something done is to begin.” – Author Unknown
You might also be interested in:
Procrastination: Why Procrastinators Procrastinate, Tim Urban
Motivation: Drive, Dan Pink
Personal Growth: The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle
Watch Tim Urban’s TED Talk: “Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator”