Procrastination – Everyone Talks About It, but Nobody Does Anything

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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 himself he will start it tomorrow, 5) promise himself he will 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 brews a pot of coffee and sets himself 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’s beating himself up for waiting so long to start and telling himself he’s no 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 he’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.

Author’s content used  under license, © 2008 Claire Communications




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Posted in Wisdom
2 comments on “Procrastination – Everyone Talks About It, but Nobody Does Anything
  1. Frank says:

    Hi Jennifer,

    Procrastination is one of my biggest problems, and keeps me from getting forward. I make “to do lists” and promise myself to stick to it. Only to find out that at the end of the day I’ve accomplished very little. It’s frustrating, but it’s something I must overcome or I will not succeed in this business.
    Recently I have started with doing things one step at the time in small pieces. Accomplishing one part before going on to the next. Doing only small chunks at a time, I now see progress.
    Now it’s up to me to step up the pace and do more not less.

    • Jennifer says:

      Well done! Glad you are finding progress.
      Another strategy is to select just 3 items from your longer “to do” list to accomplish today.
      When you’ve done them – you’re done! Succeeded!
      You can then look through the full list and pick another one if you have time – and feel the glow of achieving more than success!

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