About one-fifth of adults report the habit of routinely delaying tackling tasks that would lead to a more successful life. Procrastination not only causes stress and self-doubt, but procrastinators are more likely to suffer physical symptoms and to visit the doctor more often. The following ideas can help you to change your thinking so that you can overcome procrastination.
On a piece of paper, create two columns. In one, write your excuses for not getting started on something. In the other, challenge these excuses with positive, realistic thoughts.
Excuse: "I don't have enough time."
Response: "The longer I wait, the less time I'll have. So I'll never have more time than I have right now.
Write a "contract" with yourself and sign it. Better yet, share your goals with a friend, spouse, or co-worker.
If you worry about what others think, imagine responding to and surviving harsh criticism.
If your computer allows, set an alarm to sound off at regular intervals to remind you of the benefits of completing a task on time.
TOP 10 REASONS FOR PROCRASTINATION
Adapted from "The Top 10 Reasons for Procrastination
and How to Get Over Them," by Louise Morganti Kaelin
1. Clouded vision. (SOLUTION: Step back.)
It's time to look at the forest. What exactly are you trying to accomplish? Sometimes we get so caught up in the detail that we forget where we're going.
2. The task is overwhelming. (SOLUTION: Break it down.)
The bigger the task, the more we need to define the natural milestones within the task. Want to lose 20 pounds? Go for five pounds, four times! Need to clean your room? Break it down into North, South, East, and West. Or divide it into tasks that can be done in a certain block of time (15 minutes, 2 hours, etc.).
3. Fear of the end result. (SOLUTION: Acknowledge the fear, then take the next step.)
Sometimes we're afraid we'll fail; sometimes we're afraid we'll succeed. The outcome is the same: fear of what will happen when we're done scares us so much that we don't work at it.
4. The task is unpleasant or boring. (SOLUTION: Focus on "why" you are doing it.)
You hate to clean, but you love living in graceful surroundings. You hate to do laundry, but you love having clean clothes. You hate to make phone calls, but you need the information on the other end of the line to make your project go faster or easier. There are many tasks or chores that we don't like to do but that are necessary to live the life we want to live. Focus on the bigger picture.
5. Indecision. (SOLUTION: Remember, often there are no wrong choices. So do something, anything.)
There are very few things that can't be undone, or done again. Can't decide what color to paint, so you let your walls remain stained and grungy? Pick three colors. Start with the lightest. If you don't like it, go on to the next.
6. You lack confidence. (SOLUTION: Figure out if your lack of skill is real or imagined.)
If it's real, find out where to gain the skills you need or find someone with the right skills who can help you. If it's imagined, look at #3-fear of the end result.
7. Not enough time. (SOLUTION: Break it down into steps that are doable in 5 to 15 minute chunks of time.)
This is related to #2--feeling overwhelmed, but has more to do with time than feeling overwhelmed. Large, uninterrupted chunks of time are very hard to come by. (And if we're honest, when they do come, we'd rather do something fun!) A good rule of thumb is "5 or 15". Either do 5 things (file 5 pieces of paper, fold 5 articles of clothing) or do something for 15 minutes. You'd be surprised how much gets done that way, and without pain!
8. Distractions. (SOLUTION: Be honest with yourself, then get focused.)
Are you consciously inviting distractions so that you have a "good" reason not to get something done? It's a way we often sabotage ourselves. Give yourself a gift of time to work on a project. Don't answer the phone or door for one hour. If someone calls, ask the person if you can get back to them in an hour. Take control of the situation.
9. Not allowing adequate time (SOLUTION: Figure out how long it will take, then double it, or better yet, triple it.)
When we envision a project in our minds, we see ourselves flying through it, on a straight and narrow path. Because of that, we tend to vastly underestimate how long it will take-partly because we forget about Steps 1 through 8! Eventually you'll get better at this, but to begin with, start doubling how long you think it will take. This will allow you to plan better and, perhaps, even complete a project without stress!
10. Too many other projects. (SOLUTION: Ask for help or establish priority.)
If you've got too much on your plate, speak up-either to your boss, your family, or to yourself. What is the most important thing to do right now? Focus on that. Also, work on "Important" tasks, not just the "Urgent" ones!