Allow me to start this with a quote:
To think too long about doing a thing often becomes its undoing. ~Eva Young
"I'll do it tomorrow". Does this sound familiar? Getting something done is easy when it is something we enjoy. Unfortunately, we all have lots of tasks that we don't particularly enjoy. Even when a thing simply must be done, almost all of us are pretty good at coming up with excuses for putting them off:
· So I'm getting a little over-weight! Who isn't?
· I'm just not in the mood right now.
· I'll go for a run tomorrow, the weather isn't that good today.
· I've got plenty of time to get it done.
· What's the point, I'll just have to do it all over again in two days.
· It's not like they can't do it without me.
· I'll leave it until the day before. I work better under pressure.
Do any of the above points sound familiar? I'll bet you can add a few to the list without too much trouble! I know it sounds funny when you look at the issue like this but the trouble is procrastination wreaks havoc in most of our lives.
Why do we procrastinate?
Some reasons are easy to spot but others are not so obvious:
· some things just aren't fun!
· we are uncomfortable about doing some things (e.g. preparing a speech)
· we don't feel up to the job
· we are angry that we have to do it in the first place
· we have had a bad experience in the past
What can we do to procrastinate less?
Okay, this is a tough one to kick-start because the first inclination of most of us is to put it off. That's my idea of a joke J. Procrastination is simply a habit. Like most habits, we tend not to notice them (our own at least) most of the time. One way to break the habit is to replace it with another one. A good habit to replace it with is to examine your reasons for putting things off when you catch yourself doing it. Most of the time the excuse you were using to procrastinate just won't stand up under examination. If you have to, make a list of the pros and cons of doing vs. not doing the thing you are procrastinating on. I'd be willing to bet that a good percentage of the time you will just get on with the task.
There is a trap here!
Try not to put yourself down when you are examining why you procrastinate. Negative reinforcement is depressing and leads to bad self-image. There is nothing to be gained by telling yourself you are lazy or you are stupid or you aren't capable of doing something. It is self-defeating. Instead, list the positive things about getting it done straight away. Look at how it will make you feel if you get the job done. Examine how others will see you in a more positive light. Consider how much more you will enjoy your leisure time when you know you have your jobs done. Realize how much grief you will save yourself by being proactive. In short, focusing on the positive aspects will have a much more motivating impact on you.
How can we make things easier?
Don't expect yourself to be perfect.Perfection is difficult to achieve at the best of times. Most often it is not only unnecessary, but counter productive. The law of diminishing returns comes into play here. Do the job well and get the result. Don't shoot for perfect unless there is a reward equal to the effort.
Get you goals and priorities straight
Be clear about what is the most important thing to get done and do that first. Leave the less important stuff for last. It is far more motivating to know you have the hard or important things completed. Once you have the job broken down it is easy to prioritize.
Break the job down
Tackle the job in bite-sized pieces. Don't take on more than you can get done in the time you allocate. This guarantees that you feel good at the end of the task because you have completed it.
Make sure that when you get a job done you give yourself a pat on the back. Reward yourself in some way for accomplishing what you set out to do. It gives you something to look forward to.
Let me generalize a bit. The thing is, we are all built pretty much the same way. A carrot is better than a stick even though they can both accomplish the same thing. But what is more motivating? What make you more likely to tackle the job at hand? If you like carrots and you associate the jobs at hand with getting a carrot at the end, you are less likely to procrastinate.
I started with a quote so let's finish with one I really like:
Procrastination is something best put off until tomorrow. ~Gerald Vaughan
Ron Hughes is CEO of Adapt Information Technology, one of the longest standing Internet businesses in the world. He is also a public speaker and frequent contributor of articles on a variety of subjects. Ron welcomes your comments at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
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