Your Last Minute Isn’t Always Your Best Minute

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I’ll Stop Procrastinating.  Tomorrow.

I used to put things off to the last minute.  I told myself it was because I worked better under pressure.  That is what you would call a rationalization.  We frequently rationalize our negative behaviors.  I know I do.  I can’t exercise hard because my neck hurts.  I can’t run because it’s raining (haha and I go to the gym).  Back to the procrastination, though.  Some of us procrastinate infrequently, some of us procrastinate all the time, but almost all of us procrastinate some of the time.  I have a dear friend who procrastinates on everything.  She doesn’t get a lot of things done–she runs out of time.  And she suffers major consequences.  It’s painful to watch her put things off that really matter until it is too late.  Ironic as it is, procrastination is a form of being a control freak.  You’re in control in putting things off–I know–that makes no sense, but lots of things we do don’t make sense.

I’ve been told that procrastination isn’t a problem of time management.  I’ve been told that telling someone to start following a Franklin Covey plan is like telling a depressed person to cheer up.  It’s much more complicated than that.  There are some things that can help, though.

First, Figure Out What Kind of Procrastinator You Are

  • Are you a risk taker?  Do you get a thrill from having to scramble to get something done by the deadline?
  • Are you an avoider?  Are you avoiding doing something because you are afraid of failing?  Or afraid of succeeding?
  • Are you a decision procrastinator because you’re afraid/can’t make a decision?
  • Are you a rebeller?  Are you not doing something because someone wants you to and rather than stand up to the person, you avoid doing it?
  • Are you a perfectionist?  Do you put things off because you want/need to be perfect–and know that that is impossible–so it’s just easier to put it off?

Next, Look at HOW You Procrastinate

  • Do you distract yourself with trivia and less important things?  Are you an expert distractor?
  • Do you tell yourself that you’ll do it tomorrow (and believe that  things will be different tomorrow–until tomorrow and repeat?)
  • Do you find ’emergencies’ that need to be handled instead of the task at hand?
  • Do you put off specific tasks–or do you put off everything?
  • Do you underestimate how long something will take?  Or overestimate how much time you have left?
  • Do you exaggerate how bad/hard/tough the task will be?

Take Action

The easiest, best, most productive way to overcome procrastination is to START.  I know that seems awfully simplistic.  It works, though.  If you look at what kind of procrastinator you are and then look at how you procrastinate, set up a situation that reduces/eliminates the ‘ideal’ procrastination environment.  Eliminate your normal distractions.  Tell yourself that you’re going to experiment with taking more time to do something.  Tell yourself it doesn’t have to be perfect–just done. Give yourself a reward AFTER you’re done.  Think through doing the worst task of your day FIRST.  Then find one task that needs to be done.  And do it.  Start.

Pay attention to what it feels like to be working on something that you would normally put off.  Is it uncomfortable?  Does it make you happy?  Or satisfied?  Or stressed?  Do the next step.  Does it get better or worse.  Continue until the task(s) is done.  Do a ‘lessons learned.’  What worked?  What didn’t?  How can you apply these lessons learned to the next thing that you would normally procrastinate about?

Commit to ‘not’ procrastinating on a certain number of things–let’s say 3 or 5.  Promise yourself that you will do this many tasks without procrastinating and will do the lessons learned exercise.  Once you’ve met that commitment, decide whether it’s worth it to keep doing this, or whether you’d rather go back to procrastinating.

You may have a good (subconscious) reason for procrastinating, but it is a choice. You can choose whether you change it or not.

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Filed under Career Development, Executive Development, Goal Setting

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