Three Ways to Stop Procrastination… NOW!
We have all experienced procrastination in our lives at some point. It is normal to put off something every now and then. Perhaps your wife wanted you to clean out the attic and you managed to postpone the dreaded task for several months. Alternatively, you may have intended on taking classes to get your contractor’s license for the past several years and have yet to take any action. Procrastination can manifest itself in many forms and result in a variety of consequences, ranging from negligible to serious. Only you can determine if procrastination is a problem. One easy test to determine if it is a problem is to ask yourself a simple question: Is procrastination preventing you from being the person you want to be? If the answer is yes, then procrastination is a problem that needs to be tackled now!
People procrastinate for a variety of reasons. Some of the more common reasons can be categorized in the following three groups:
- Overwhelming size of project – If a project is complex in nature or long in duration, it is easy to fall into the trap of not wanting or knowing how to get started. As the deadline for completion nears, the sense of urgency increases, often culminating in a last-minute frenzy of panicked action. This usually results in a finished product of inferior quality and a procrastinator promising to start earlier next time. Unfortunately, the cycle of procrastination usually continues.
- Unpleasantness of task – Often, even the most simple of tasks or chores will be put off indefinitely by a procrastinator. The procrastinator may even go to great lengths to avoid the task at hand, sometimes doing more work to avoid the task than would be required to do the task. For example, household chores such as dishwashing or laundry are necessary part of everyday living. However, the procrastinator will often delay doing the dishes or laundry until every last dish or article of underwear is dirty before taking action. This type of procrastination can lead to funny moments, but the reality is that the pattern of procrastination is being reinforced and can deteriorate into more serious forms of procrastination. Not wanting to take your dog in for vaccinations or your car into the shop for routine maintenance can lead to more serious complications. In these cases, the procrastinators end up suffering more negative consequences than if the tasks had been completed in a timely fashion.
- Fear of failure – Some procrastination is the result of a fear of failure, whether obvious or subconscious. It is fairly common for some people who absolutely hate their jobs to force themselves to endure their suffering and stay on for years. Some of these people postpone looking for alternative work because of a fear of failure. Only when fired or laid off will some of these people do what they wanted to do all along and seek work at another company or in another career field.
No matter the type of procrastinator you may be, there are tested strategies to overcome the disempowering behavior of procrastination. Three excellent ways to stop procrastination are described below:
- Break large or complex projects into smaller, more manageable phases – Whether you are writing a thesis or building a gazebo, breaking up the project into phases makes the project less daunting. In order to do this, however, it is important to get organized so that related tasks can be accomplished in groups. This strategy will help alleviate the feeling of dread and questions of “where do I start?” In addition, as one phase is completed, a sense of accomplishment will help propel you into the next phase.
- Turn unpleasant chores into a game – If you have a difficult time doing simple chores because they are unpleasant or boring, you can find ways to motivate yourself to take care of them promptly. You can reward yourself upon completion of an undesirable task, or you may take the reverse tact and penalize yourself for not taking care of a task. Be creative and fun with this. A penalty for not performing a task in a timely fashion can be something as simple as a $5 bill into a cookie jar. Obviously, you want to make a penalty something that will cause you a little grief over time. You may want to have a roommate, friend, or significant other enforce the penalties you may devise.
- Change your definition of success to include taking action – For procrastination caused by fear of failure or self-doubt, develop the empowering attitude that taking thoughtful action is in itself a form of success. If there is something you want or need to do, do not allow paralyzing fear to prevent or delay you from taking action. Remember the saying by Benjamin Disraeli, “Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.”
Procrastination need not be a limiting factor in your life. By understanding what is at the root of your procrastination, you can take deliberate action to remove the obstacles and improve your performance. The most important thing to realize is that procrastination, like any other ingrained habit, takes time to correct. However, through diligence and attention to the issue, you can eliminate procrastination and begin to fulfill your true potential.