Are YOU a Procrastinator?
Procrastination is a surprisingly common phenomenon, taking different forms and causing different reactions in people who experience it.
Most people know the dread of work which needs to be done, piling up, unfinished. However, some people just haven’t learned how to develop strategies to cope with putting off what needs to be done.
A great deal can be achieved using techniques for change and management. Try not to give yourself a hard time!
1. Don’t set yourself up for failure – if something doesn’t absolutely need to be done, don’t put in on your list. Sometimes, in a flush of ‘I want to get more organised. I know, I’ll start writing lists!’ we make note of a host of things which aren’t essential, don’t absolutely need to be done (especially in a fragile procrastinator’s case) and only serve to clog up the process and result in non-action. Be minimal – only note the essentials, and focus on getting them done.
2. Is there a less demanding task than the one that you have been putting off which may have the same outcome and require less effort? Making a phone call rather than writing an email? Choosing a simpler menu for that dinner party? Remember the KISS principle – Keep It Simple and Straightforward! (I think that’s supposed to be ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid’ but I’ve never liked the word...‘stupid’).
3. For those procrastinators who are perfectionists in chains – remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect!
4. Be more aware of what you are spending time on, e.g.: don’t open your email account until you have time to reply as necessary. Try not to ‘double-handle’ things – this is wasteful and diminishes a sense of accomplishment achieved when addressing and completing tasks.
5. Screen calls on your phones when you have set aside time for accomplishing tasks. Use an answer service, and answer only when you must. Try it. Phones are a great time-waster. Let your friends know that you are trying to save time.
6. Delegate. Know yourself. Do YOU really need to do this task, or could someone else (a friend, family member or staff member) do it for you. You may even have to pay someone; it depends on how important the outcome is to you.
7. Make a decision early on – does the task HAVE to be done? Really? Don’t burden yourself with an unending list of things to do. Be realistic. You don’t have to be a super-achiever. You may not even be a serious contender. Some people are just happy cruising. That’s fine. Just decide now, or ASAP, to let the task go, and forget it!
8. At Goethe would say, ‘Begin it now’! Watch yourself and learn...beginning the task is usually the hardest, often it flows after that. But please, PROMISE yourself to finish it, or you will lose the sense of accomplishment SO IMPORTANT to re-educating yourself to avoid procrastination. Choose a small task, if necessary. Start, do, FINISH! Reward!
Procrastinators often feel that there are high standards that they must live up to, and so put off the task itself. Or, procrastination can be an excellent way of avoiding stressful or discomfiting situations or events, and even delaying the tasks which may help with the guilt people experience by putting the tasks off. Go figure!
By knowing yourself, watching your reactions and being present, you will have the opportunity to slow down and learn about yourself, your reactions and motivations. Be gentle with yourself. You have the highest expectations of yourself – go easy, slow down a little and simplify your responsibilities. Work on a ‘must be done’ principle, and try the following:
1. Make short lists. Remember, KISS.
2. Prioritise tasks – some things just ARE more important. Don’t overburden yourself. Try making a deadline for each task that is achievable. Don’t allocate 5 days when it really needs to be 3 weeks. Do what is most important, first.
3. Create a variety of lists (digital or handwritten – your choice). Perhaps ‘Daily’, ‘Monthly’, ‘Renovations’, ‘6 months’, etc. and transfer information as required. Sometimes moving tasks over from one list to the next reinforces their need to be done and creates action. I always love crossing things out on a list, but I have to write a new one when the original gets messy or ugly. That’s me!
4. Break up complex tasks into chunks, for example: to do her Tax recently, a friend had to achieve a range of tasks, which she identified and broke up into pieces to achieve:
· Collect tax receipts
· Arrange into date order
· Collect invoices
· Arrange into date order
· Input receipts into spreadsheet
· Input invoices into spreadsheet etc.
5. By all means, fill your calendar effectively, but don’t overbook yourself with too much to do. Remember, this is a learning curve, and you’ll need to experience success on an ongoing basis. Plan to succeed! Go easy on yourself. Achieving some small thing well is far better than feeling terrible about not achieving anything.
6. By scheduling your time more effectively, you will feel encouraged that you will be able to enjoy your ‘down time’ more because you have contributed toward succeeding in your personal affairs in a more productive way.
7. There are a million small tasks that bring with them a feeling of accomplishment. Sure, some of these can be scheduled into your program to create a feeling of success. However, if you have pressing goals which need to be achieved, make sure that at least some of the ‘small tasks’ relate to the overall success of the project you are most concerned with. Making an important phone call instead of doing the dishes (especially if you’ve done them twice today already and are doing them again to achieve a ‘perfect’ kitchen and avoid the anxiety of the bigger, more important, goal!).
8. When breaking down tasks into smaller chunks, try to estimate how long it may take to do. By identifying that it may take 25 minutes to research carpet suppliers on the internet, the next time your husband is ½ hour late home for dinner, you’ll know that you have an achievable task to complete. Ditto the 3 phone calls (7 minutes) you can fit in before the babysitter arrives...get it?
Finally, don’t give yourself a hard time if you fall back into old patterns. It can take a lifetime to change habits, indeed you may never ‘change’. However, you can go back to strategies which may help in minimising the heavy feeling of helplessness which is the bedfellow of procrastination.
It is a process and it can become alot easier. Look for those quiet moments of ‘Yay, I did this!’.
Pay attention to your successes.
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