Overcoming procrastination – vital to your success!
Procrastination is like a disease that sucks the life out of your best intentions. I know, I’ve suffered from it long enough! One of the best things that happened to me in terms of overcoming procrastination was getting busy creating this site.
Anytime I felt like I couldn’t do it, or wasn’t sufficiently motivated, I could see that people of all kinds were successfully building sites, in all parts of the world. People skilled in web design and people new to the whole concept, young people and old, business people and work-from-home mums, retired people and students, and everyone in between. The more I looked into it, the fewer excuses I had for not giving it a shot. If those other people could do it, so could I! I’ve kept up my momentum in building this site because I know it can be done, and any doubts and fears associated with doing it have largely dissipated.
Maybe you don’t procrastinate … maybe you’ve never procrastinated, I don’t know, but I suspect you have, since you’re reading this page. You might not fully realise you have the procrastination disease, but there are symptoms, if you can recognise them.
- You find it difficult to make decisions, and to act on them.
- You have difficulty putting together a to-do list, because you have so many things on your mind that need doing.
- You have had some items on your to-do list for months!
- Sometimes, when you look at your list, you actually feel sick.
- You consider yourself sensible, intelligent, and resourceful, and you just can’t work out why you’re not making the progress you should be making.
- Everything just has to be perfect for you to be able to move on (Fatal!)
- You find yourself taking lots of breaks for not very good reasons.
- You’re not really very clear about your goals.
- You tend to have several things on the go at one time, often without actually completing any of them.
- You often feel too tired to get things done.
- You feel scared of failing (or succeeding).
- You feel overwhelmed.
- The big picture scares you!
- You’ve been meaning to sort out all this procrastination business for ages, but, y’know, ya never really got round to it! 😉
There are many ways to procrastinate, and many signs of the disease, and if even a few of these sound like you, then you’ve got it, and you’ve got it bad. Actually, if you’ve got it, it’s always bad – there’s only one flavour of procrastination, and it tastes lousy!
So, I procrastinate! So what?
- Because putting things off is not just bad in itself, it’s a symptom of something far worse – not realising the value of time, and not fully valuing life itself.
- Because tomorrow never comes (you did know that, right?)
- Because not everybody lives to a ripe old age (sorry to be so blunt, but who knows if you’ll even see the week out?)
- Because in ten years time you’ll be kicking yourself for not overcoming procrastination and not completing things.
- Because it’s always a good time to make a start, and always a bad time to put things off till tomorrow.
- Because you know … you know… that you’ve put things off in the past and lived to regret it.
How can I change?
Okay, I give in ! I’m a procrastinator! There, I’ve admitted it! I have procrastinated! So, sue me! Okay, okay, I take your point, procrastination is a disease, and I have procrastinated. Now what can I do to change my ways?
Recognising the problem is the first step to fixing it.
There are other things to do though, and the sooner we get started, the better (let’s not put this off any longer than necessary!).
Spend some time reviewing your situation. Really take it to pieces and see what’s going wrong. Overcoming procrastination can only really begin once you know the cause of it. You’re putting things off, and you’ve probably been doing it for years, but you don’t even know why. Ask yourself some searching questions, and don’t settle for anything less than the truth.
- What is it I am afraid of? And why?
- What have I got to gain by continually putting things off?
- Am I more scared of failure or success?
- How would I deal with either one?
- Is it anyone’s business whether or not I get started, make progress, fail, succeed, give up, or anything else? And why would it concern me?
- Am I prepared to take the bull by the horns and fix this situation?
- Am I prepared to do whatever it takes, even if it means making changes?
- Am I willing to risk upsetting the status quo and create a new order?
Are you ready for change?
Hopefully, by now you will have unearthed some home truths about why it is that you have this problem. If you have a better idea of the causes of procrastination, you’re ready to move on to some remedial measures. Get ready to work on them steadily and be prepared to actually see real progress being made, not just another round of navel-gazing.
- Make a list of things you really need to get done. Don’t fill it with second-grade stuff, the kind of fillers that might’ve been bloating your to-do lists in the past. Only put stuff in here that you really want completed, and that you believe you can handle.
- Now get busy on reducing the list. Go through it again, and this time strike through anything that slipped in on the sly, anything you don’t really see yourself completing.
- At this stage you might have five or ten items on your list, and they’re all very important. Okay, now rearrange the list, making sure the highest priority items are at the top.
- Good, now you’ve got a workable to-do list! Now you’re ready to make some real progress.
- Make another list now, this time concerning just the first (and most important) item. Break it down into achievable steps. They might consist of such simple things as checking costs, or making a phone call, or visiting a website. That’s fine, they should all be simple and do-able.
You now have a real, workable plan for the most important item on your to-do list. You know (because you’ve thought about it) why you were having problems with getting this (and other things) done. So now you can get busy, and you know what? It won’t hurt a bit.
No more excuses! Just do it!
But just keep on the lookout for problems …
- Catch yourself if you start to have doubts – squash them immediately!
- Catch yourself immediately if you start saying negative things to yourself – counter them right away with positive self-talk. Procrastination is insidious, it creeps up on you unawares.
- Watch for pointless distractions – keep ontrack and focused. Distractions are just one of the ways to procrastinate, and you’ve got to be on the lookout for them all.
- Don’t give in to fears of failure or success – you will either succeed or fail, and either way, worrying’s not going to help.
- Keep reminding yourself that you’re resourceful, intelligent, and that you can do this!
It feels so good!
And when you’ve done it, feel the emotion that comes with it. It’s a heady mix of relief, satisfaction, pride, joy and just plain delight! Compare it with the miserable, self-doubting, self-loathing feelings that can come up when you’ve procrastinated and repeatedly shirked doing the important things you’ve set your heart on.
Now, spend a few minutes writing down what you did, how easy it turned out to be, how good it made you feel, and how determined you are to keep up the momentum. You can refer to this at each stage to bolster your enthusiasm. Do the same after each stage, just a quick note about how it felt and how worthwhile it was.
All you have to do now is move on to the second stage, then the third. Don’t feel compelled to do it all at once. Just because you’re a recovering procrastinator, don’t feel that you have to complete a task in a day. Just be sensible about it. If you’ve done the first step, or maybe the first two or three, that’s fine for today. You’ve got the truck moving now and it’s rolling along nicely (it was stuck in the mud and you were struggling, trying to push it to get it moving!). You’ve overcome the inertia and you’re on the move, and nothing can stop you now.
Unless, of course, you slip into your old ways! So use your notes (that you wrote after Step 1, and each subsequent step) to keep yourself motivated. Keep getting back on the horse. Do a little each day. Make progress, even if it’s slow.
Focus on the main item, the Number 1 on your list, but you can be working on other things too, you don’t have to focus intently to the exclusion of everything else. You’ve started now, and you’re keeping notes (brief, to the point notes), and you’re using them to keep motivated. And yes, you’re actually making progress! Keep an eye on it, watch it happen, enjoy it. You can do this, and the fact of the matter is, you are doing this!
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