“Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday and avoiding today.” Wayne Dyer
Remember those good old school days when Sunday nights would roll around and you still hadn’t done your homework? Somehow, you always found other things to do and got temporary relief from the dreaded homework. At a certain point, you’d start feeling guilty that you haven’t done anything yet, so the initial stress gets compounded and anxiety starts creeping in. By now, you’re in full panic mode while you’re cramming to get everything done at the last minute. And you thought you had plenty of time to do it that weekend!
Recognize this scenario?
While we all procrastinate once in awhile, there are those who become chronic procrastinators.
Procrastination is described as “the intentional act of postponing or delaying decisions or actions.” You deliberately choose to do something else instead of what you know you should be doing.
It’s not so much a time management issue as it is a problem with how we deal with emotions. Don’t mistaken laziness for procrastination. While they may look similar, there are two different things are going on; laziness is apathy, unwilling to take action and doing the least amount possible without feeling bad about it; while procrastination is putting things off, filling your time with low priority activities, ending up feeling enormously pressured and guilty and then scrabbling at the last minute trying to do it all.
Some of the underlying factors that cause procrastination include not having concrete, clear goals, energy, or motivation; feeling overwhelmed, being a perfectionist; overthinking, which leads to analysis paralysis and indecisiveness; fear of failing, criticism, and making mistakes. There is also task aversion that may arise from not liking the tasks, feeling resentful or rebellious against someone like your boss, whom you don’t like.
Depression can also play a role as one has difficulty concentrating along with low mental and physical energy. There are also those who are bored and get a thrill from waiting for the last minute to do things to feel the extra pressure and challenge. This may work for some, but sometimes this may not allow for the time needed in the event of unexpected issues that may pop up or for unnecessary errors that may occur. It also makes for a poor excuse if your performance is not up to par. You can always say, “If only I had more time, I could have done more or better.”
We innately seek out pleasurable activities and tend to avoid unpleasant ones. Procrastination can be used as a coping mechanism to make us feel good in the short run, especially in today’s world of instant gratification. However, in the long run, it can backfire and have greater, not-so-pleasant consequences.
Instead of continuing to beat yourself up, it is important to realize what you are doing and identify why you are doing it so that, ultimately, you can devise a plan of action with strategies that can help you make meaningful progress. By acknowledging and facing your emotions, you can manage them instead of your feelings managing you.
Telling a procrastinator to just do it is about as helpful as telling a clinically depressed person to be happy and snap out of it.
Procrastination can take a debilitating toll on your health and self-esteem; increase your stress and anxiety levels, leave you feeling frustrated, guilty and shameful; make you feel stuck; lower your work performance; restrict your potential, prevent you from reaching your dreams; put a strain on your relationships; and lead to less overall satisfaction in your life. This sets you up for the repetitive, endless cycle of procrastination.
Newton’s Law of Productivity states that “objects in motion tend to stay in motion.” The same is true for an object at rest will remain at rest. Therefore, the key to getting things done is to get started. “A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.” Lao Tzu
If you have two minutes, you can get the ball rolling. Most people end up spending more time agonizing and thinking about how to do it than actually doing it.
In David Allen’s book, “Getting Things Done,” the two-minute rule is a very simple yet powerful technique that can help you overcome procrastination by offering you a practical solution for increasing productivity. If you want to get things done, don’t worry about finishing the task, you need to find a way to start.
No time to read? Open your book and read only one page.
Take out your yoga mat and do a couple of stretches.
Need to tidy up? Get up from your couch when there’s a commercial on TV and put away one thing or take out the trash.
Laundry basket full? Fold one piece of clothing each time you pass by it.
Hate exercising? Put on your running shoes will help you get out the door.
Want to relax? Close your eyes, meditate on your breathing.
By making it easy to start, it will make it easier to continue doing it. The small things will add up and eventually you’ll be able to tackle tasks head-on rather than accumulating a never-ending list of things to do for tomorrow.
It’s a way of focusing on a single task instead of getting overwhelmed by the whole task.
By simplifying the task, you make it easy to take the first step, and by showing up, you can maintain consistency. Eventually you will build up momentum and the rest will follow as you start a new habit.
The problem is not the task; it’s how you feel about the task. By rewiring your thoughts and feelings, you can get into action by taking that most important first step. Many procrastinate because they don’t know what to do first. Learn to focus your time and energy on one thing at a time.
S – Set up a deadline in order to get things done. Set clear expectations as to what and
when we are going to do the task. Without deadlines, you won’t get to the finish line and
you will be wondering where all the time went.
T – To Do List. Creating our priorities is about deciding what is important.
A – Attack big goals by breaking them down into smaller, more manageable goals. Work with
intervals by blocking off time as suggested in the Pomodoro Technique. Set your timer for
25 minutes, focus intensely on your work, then take a 5-minute break. After repeating this
cycle 4 more times, take a longer break of 15-30 minutes.
By starting to see instant results, you end up getting the motivation to keep on working.
R – Reward yourself; Create intermediate goal posts as part of getting to your final goals.
Create an incentive program to treat yourself once you complete the tasks along the way.
T – Think positively; keep your eye on your goals and what you want. All the positive thinking
in the world cannot work unless it is followed by taking positive action.
Start by watching your language;
Replace “OMG, this is too much” with “Where’s the best place to start.”
Replace “When will I finish?” with “When can I start?”
N – No distractions. With the internet, cell phones, and 24 hour social media, it is so easy
to get distracted. It is important to minimize interruptions in your environment so you can
keep your mind in the zone and focus on the task at hand. You can actually get more done
in one hour of uninterrupted time than in a whole day, full of an onslaught of noise and side
O – Optimize your chances. Keep on keeping on; commit to finishing the task; make sure
to take breaks; keep refocusing; remain flexible; make it fun, and don’t forget to breathe.
Shift your mindset by focusing on getting results and seeing progress, instead of
perfection. Don’t overthink it and don’t underestimate yourself.
Choose to be proactive instead of last-minute reactive.
W – Work at your best time; usually, the morning is the most productive time however everyone
is different. The main thing is to get through the hardest and most unpleasant task
first, so that it can lift your spirits and make you feel more confident for the rest
of the day.
If you are tired of procrastinating, get energized by taking the first baby step. Procrastination leads to inaction and self-sabotage. The antidote is to develop a new productive habit by redirecting your thoughts, feelings and actions. Once you find a way to get the wheels in motion, it becomes much easier to stay in motion and to stay motivated.
All it takes is two minutes….