According to Miriam Webster, to procrastinate is to put something off intentionally and habitually. The definition is so simple and to the point yet procrastination causes us much stress and anxiety in our daily lives. Many of us spend more time making up reasons/excuses to procrastinate the completion of a task/project than it would probably take to complete that same dreaded task/project. So the first question is why do we do it? And the second, possibly more challenging question is… how can we overcome it?
They say we procrastinate for a number of reasons. Here are just a couple of the popular culprits:
- Perfectionism: If you’re anything like me, you struggle with this as well. We want things to be done right because our name is associated with it. As a result, we never feel fully prepared to start because in our minds, we haven’t planned and/or prepared enough to do it successfully. So let’s just put it off… that will solve the problem, right? Wrong!
- Overwhelm: We think of the large project in its entirety and immediately feel overwhelmed by the enormity of it. We justify putting it off by telling ourselves that we simply don’t have the time to start and complete the project so let’s just put it off until tomorrow when we have more time.
Though I could go on and on with more reasons why we do it, I think it’s more important to focus instead on “the fix”. While there’s no cure for procrastination, I think the fix is a process that can be applied to anything you want or need to accomplish. As with anything, the more you practice, these steps, the better you’ll become:
1. Pick just one project you want/need to get done but haven’t yet accomplished. Think about the end result and visualize the positives that you will experience once you complete the project. For example, if you feel overwhelmed by the large number of emails in your inbox and your goal is to take action on them once and for all (file, delete, delegate, etc.), I want you to visualize your inbox at 0 and the peace you’ll feel once accomplished and knowing that your important emails are “at your fingertips”! 🙂
2. Before you do anything else, make a list of the “Whys” and “Hows” you’ve procrastinated on this project in the past and then take it a step further and make a list of What You Plan To Do not if, but when these arise going forward: Here’s just 1 example:
- WHY I Procrastinated: I felt so overwhelmed by the 1,000+ emails in my inbox that I didn’t know where to start
- HOW I Procrastinated: I made the easy decision to check my LinkedIn feed instead of the uncomfortable decision to start cleaning out my email inbox!
- WHAT I PLAN TO DO GOING FORWARD when I’m tempted to choose “easy” over “uncomfortable”: Each time I’m tempted to procrastinate, I plan to spend more time analyzing my options and choosing the one that one will bring me closer to my goal… even if it’s difficult and puts me outside my comfort zone.
3. Make a list of each of the small tasks/steps needed to accomplish this project, training you could benefit from, supplies you need to purchase, etc. to make it happen. Arrange the list in priority order so you do the first task list first and tackle/complete the rest sequentially.
4. Estimate how long you think each of these steps will take and schedule time on calendar to complete each one… whether daily, weekly, etc. (I suggest daily if possible in order to gain traction, momentum and to finally get that damn project off your To Do list. I also suggest first thing in the morning to get it over with)!
5. Last but not least, as our friends at Nike say… “just do it”! Start w/ task #1 no matter how painful it is and once completed, move on to task #2 in accordance with your list and schedule on your calendar.
My hope is that this process becomes integrated into your life and becomes a habit. Also, I hope that the overwhelm that procrastination has caused you in the past is replaced by the feelings of empowerment and the confidence that you can accomplish just about anything!
“You cannot plough a field by turning it over in your mind.” ~ Gordon Hinckley ~
Brenda Tringali, Organizing & Productivity Specialist for your Home or Workplace
At YourFingertips Organizing
Serving MA, NH, or “virtually” anywhere (via video)