I just read a blog post that is very timely at this time of year. Patrick Diessen’s blog covered procrastination today. At this point in the sales year our procrastination from the past six months – or the lazy days of summer – can start catching up with us. This advice is very relevant today.
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“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task!” – William James
A Cure for Procrastinating
Here’s a cure for those who are sick and tired of being told; “If only you applied yourself, you could accomplish so much!”:
- Make top-of-mind that you really are squandering your life. Your life’s meaning is significantly determined by how much you’ve given to the world. And as everyone’s been telling you ad nauseum, you have so much potential to do that. Decide, finally, that every time you opt to forgo productivity in favor of a brain teaser or party, you’re probably wasting life’s most precious resource: TIME!
- Set a big goal. Goethe said, “Dream no small dreams because they have no power to move people’s hearts.” So, what’s the biggest, most exciting goal you could potentially achieve if you put your mind to it? Even if you’re not sure you could achieve it, might getting partway there is good enough? Can’t think of a big, exciting goal? Here are common fantasy careers: owning a cool business, being a celebrity, being in the fashion, sports, computer games, or film industry, directing or starting a non-profit, holding political office, holding a status job like architect, lawyer, or executive. Already in a career? What’s the biggest contribution you could make to your field? Most people don’t have the intellectual firepower to make a big contribution, but you’re a Mensan. You do.
- Picture the benefits of achieving your goal. Money? Fame? Self-esteem? A more meaningful life? Get your spouse off your back? Increased happiness? More meaningful relationships?
- Is fear making you procrastinate? If so, what would your wiser twin say in response to your fear? For example, if you’re afraid of failing, your wiser twin might say, “If the goal is really too difficult, change it or get the skills you need so it’s not too difficult.” Or, “Is it wiser to not attempt your goal at all, which guarantees failure? Would the price of failure be so great as to justify your not trying it?”
- Consider getting a collaborator. Procrastinators often feel guilty about slacking if they have a partner to be accountable to.
- Be aware of the moment of truth: that moment, when you, usually unconsciously decide whether you should take that next baby step toward your goal or see what event you should next attend? By making the choice consciously, you’ll more often choose the productive activity.
- Break the project into baby steps. Don’t know how? Get help from a close friend, family member, coach or mentor.
- When you’re stuck, struggle for no more than one minute. Generally, if you haven’t made progress in a minute, chances are that additional struggling won’t help. It will merely make you want to procrastinate more!
- DON’T put it on your To-Do List. Conventional wisdom says to put all your tasks on a to-do list and then prioritize the list. I’ve found that for many tasks, you’re wiser to just do the task: you save the time it takes to put the task on your list; you avoid adding to the many tasks hanging over your head like Poe’s pendulum in the pit; doing it now tends to make you not be overly perfectionist about it; most important, you avoid procrastination: you’ve gotten it done! So instead of the guilt, you’ll start hearing, “Wow. Thanks for the fast response!” That feels so good!
- A one-paragraph procrastination treatment. When you’re tempted to procrastinate, there’s a moment of truth when you’re still able to resist, like when you’re just starting to lose your temper. At that moment, you can still restrain yourself.
How to restrain yourself from procrastinating? At the moment of truth, ask yourself, “What’s my next one-minute task?” If you can’t figure out what it is or how to do it, ponder for just one minute. If you’re still clueless, get help or decide that the problem isn’t important enough to worry about.
- Procrastination Excuses. Do you use any of these bogus excuses to justify procrastinating?
- I’ll feel more like doing it tomorrow. –> Think back to previous times you’ve used that excuse. Did you feel more like doing it the next day?
- After I do X (for example, clean my desk), I’ll do the task. –> Again, think back. Did delaying the task make things easier?
- I’m afraid of failing. –> Not trying ensures failure! Winners increase their chances of success by dividing tasks into bite-sized pieces and getting help where needed.
What can you do today?
When tempted to procrastinate, first congratulate yourself on catching yourself making an excuse. Then do your next few-second task. Expect it to feel uncomfortable. Do it anyway. It will get better! It will help you to succeed faster and better!
“The two rules of procrastination: 1) Do it today. 2) Tomorrow will be today tomorrow!” – Author Unknown
Make this a Positive & Successful day…. unless you have other plans! Written by Marty Nemko for Patrick Diessen. Dutch born and now Sydney based Patrick Driessen is a visionary, entrepreneurial and intuitive executive leader, strategist, exec coach, author and agent of change with a passion to help other people succeed!
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With short Midwestern summers, it is easy to get into the habit (yes it is a habit) of procrastination. I’m using this information to jump start my activity again! Best to you Nancy.
What tips for removing procrastination do you have for others?