According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, procrastination may not be just a matter of laziness. It may also be related to a deep emotional strategy to avoid stress. That may explain why some people are always behind on projects, appointments, etc. Human beings will do anything to avoid stress – even if it comes at the cost of more stress later.
I personally get very annoyed when I get in a procrastination state because it is self-feeding. If I get behind on a single task or project, I have to delay other tasks to get it completed. It can be a downward spiral that is hard to dig out of.
Check out this list of five things you can do to help you out of that procrastination deathtrap:
- Be more precise in your small goals. Most people live in a very general world. They plan to get something done tomorrow, next week, etc. Stop doing that. Pick a very precise time on your calendar and commit to working on ‘that thing’ at that time.
- Be willing to live with “done > perfect”. A lot of people I know live in the constant state of getting ready to get ready. They are waiting for the perfect time, perfect amount of money, or perfect set of training before they embark on a new effort. There is no perfect anything. There is “as good as it is right now”. Stop waiting for perfection before attacking a task you want to avoid. If it’s something you don’t know how to do, search online. Someone has likely done it before and has written out step-by-step instructions online that you can follow.
- If something is painful, get it done sooner than later. If you keep postponing something you don’t want to do because you find it painful or annoying, realize that it is not going to get LESS painful or annoying the more you put it off. Take control and knock that task out ASAP. It’s better to plan it and plow your way though than to wait for it to become a non-optional emergency. How painful will it be then?
- Make it hard to procrastinate. This is especially if you work in front of a computer. Put roadblocks in your way that make you have to work really hard to put off working. There are countless utilities for your computer that can block your time wasting activities on and offline. If you are someone like me who lives a lot online the first thing you should do is install RescueTime. This will help you start measuring the time you are wasting. You can then install different browser plugins that block you visiting time-wasting websites and force you to focus. As I type this right now, I have “StayFocusd” and “Kill Facebook Newsfeed” Chrome extensions installed. The former gives me a limited amount of time on social media, news, viral, and other time-wasting sites each day. The latter blocks me from seeing my general Facebook news feed and allows me to hop in and only check messages specific groups that I want to monitor.
- Build in small rewards for small goals. Do you have any BHAGs (Big Hair Arse Goals) ? I know I have several. And they may not happen for five or ten years. When you are strategic in your life and plan for the long-term, you may get discouraged a long the way. I am sure you know that your long-term should be broken down into several short-term goals. Be sure you celebrate the short-term goals. Make a big deal about them. The celebrations will lift your spirits and remind you of the coming BHAG. It’s hard to celebrate BHAG every day when you won’t see it for months or years. But if your goal is to lose 20 pounds and you lose five, make a big about it in your life. Celebrate all successes.
Share your favorite tactic from the five above
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