Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill. – Christopher Parker
Procrastination is the thief of time. It’s the worst enemy of our progress in life. As human beings, we need to feel that we are getting something done each day. That makes us feel good about ourselves. As long as we feel good about ourselves, we are happy. It’s simple, progress = happiness!
Why then do we procrastinate with doing our tasks?
Why do we “postpone” things instead of just doing them?
This is the first thing that we need to figure out in the process of dealing with procrastination.
Procrastination is putting off things that you should be focusing on right now. It usually happens because the task is:
Try to figure out why you are procrastinating with doing your task. If it is boring, how you can make it more interesting? If it is difficult, who can help you? Whatever the reason for procrastination is, there is always a solution!
I remember one task that I was working on as an engineer that had all of the mentioned characteristics. I needed to review a 200 page document with custom made calculations and formulas. It was boring, frustrating, and difficult, and I was procrastinating each day, hesitating to complete the task.
It took me few months instead of the few weeks initially planned to finish it.
Now when I look back, I know I had a wrong approach. I was constantly keeping in mind the whole task that needed to be done, instead of focusing on little parts that I could do each day.
If you need to write a long report, study for an exam or do any large task, don’t forget to “salami-slice” the task first!
The salami-slice method means that you need to cut a big task into small pieces, like you would cut salami before you eat it, and then focus on doing the small tasks one at a time.
If you need to clean your house, and you focus on that, it’s very likely that you will procrastinate with doing this. It’s much better idea to focus on cleaning one room a day, or just part of the room.
If you constantly think about the whole task that needs to be done, it’s no surprise that you don’t have enough energy to even start, let alone finish.
Every minute spent in planning saves ten minutes in executing the plan and achieving the goal. – Brian Tracy
Procrastination also happens when the task is unstructured, when we don’t see a logical order or the meaning of the task, and when there is not enough clarity about the outcome of the task.
Let’s say for example that you want to write a book. Maybe you have an initial idea what you want to write about, but if you don’t have enough clarity about the outcome of the book, you can easily end up procrastinating.
That’s why you need to structure your idea, break it down into chapters, define the order of chapters and make a plan.
When you have a plan, it’s much easier to focus on the first step and write the first page, because you have the whole picture in mind and clarity on the outcome.
Big tasks requires big preparation and planning. Thinking on paper is much more effective than just keeping things in your mind.
Another thing that can be very helpful when dealing with procrastination is to ask yourself what will happen if the task is not completed. What is the cost of your procrastination? What are the negative consequences of not doing your task on time?
It seems that we have a tendency to justify reasons of our procrastination and to not think about the real consequences of not doing something that we know need to be done.
If you are a business owner, procrastinating on important tasks or decisions can lead to losing money.
If you are an employee in the company, maybe you are ruining relationships with your colleagues or your customers if you are procrastinating with finishing something important.
In your everyday life, you can negatively influence others and cause arguments by feeling stressed and angry because you haven’t finished your tasks on time.
As a result of procrastination, we can feel guilt, stress, frustration, anger, lack of control in our life, etc.
That’s why you need to be honest with yourself and think about the costs of your procrastination.
Someday is not a day of the week.
You need to be clear and specific about when you will do something and limit your time of execution.
One good way to complete something you have postponed for long time is to find an exact time of the day when you will work on your task.
Write a list of your daily routines and reserve a specific time for when you will work on your task. It can be first thing in the morning or maybe first thing after lunch. Choose the time of the day when you usually feel the most productive.
It’s very important to limit your time of working on the task.
For example, you can schedule 20 minutes after lunch to work on your task, or 1 hour in the morning. Make sure that your mind knows exactly when it will happen and for how long, then you will be mentally prepared to do it at specific time.
If we set ourselves too high of standards, we can end up procrastinating on completing the task. Done is better than perfect! You can always improve your work later.
I’ve started to write this article about procrastination and then procrastinate to finish it. Why? Because I was trying to figure out the best possible principles to overcome procrastination, something revolutionarily and I put too much pressure on myself.
The idea is not to be perfect, but to get things done.
Like David Allan says in his book, Get Things Done:
Almost every project could be done better, and an infinite quantity of information is now available that could make that happen.
If you are trying to be perfect, you can spend days or even months researching and not doing any action.
The best way to get something done is to begin.
You can lose so much energy and willpower focusing on everything that need to be done. Instead, focus only on what need to be done during the first 5 minutes and gather enough energy to start. After you start, it will be much easier to continue.
As a student, when I was studying for exams, the hardest part for me was to begin studying because I needed to switch focus and concentrate. But once I started studying, it was much easier to continue.
Thinking about what you need to do doesn’t mean that you will do it. If you write down your plans or tell others about it, you are more likely to do it. If you commit yourself 100% that you will do it, NO MATTER WHAT, then you greatly increase your chances for success!
If nothing else helps you overcome procrastination, then you should try 10 Days Commitment Challenge. This method is really powerful.
Eva Lu is an ex engineer who decided to give up her successful career and dedicate her life to inspire and motivate others to find the best in themselves.
She founded the “Mind of a Winner” website because she strongly believes that success is a skill developed by persistent people and her passion is to motivate others to become persistent enough.
Her inspiration and her mentors are self-made millionaires who helped thousands of people to change their lives and who managed to build careers with their passion and vision towards doing something what they love.
She also helps young entrepreneurs with business advices and encourages them not to give up on their dreams. She teaches them how to turn dreams into clear visions and ideas, and ideas into actions and results.
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