• Donna Boylen

Procrastination - Is it a Problem for You?

What is procrastination and why could it be bad for you?

Procrastination is when you replace any high-priority actions with low priority action instead, and we all do it from time to time. The problem with procrastination is when it becomes habitual and parts of your life begin to suffer. Procrastinators will pay bills late, they get up to make a coffee or get something to eat in the middle of their task – or before they even start their task – even though they’re not hungry or thirsty, they leave Christmas shopping until Christmas Eve – although they’ve known that Christmas has been coming for the last 12 months!

Procrastination is a way to avoid doing something that seems overwhelming, uninteresting or when you simply have too many other things to do, however it leads to added stress in your life when you continually put things off until a later time. Having a number of tasks you have started and not yet finished, or tasks that you know you need to start but haven’t yet, leads to an overwhelming feeling of stress and anxiety and actually lowers your self-esteem. When you get an overdue notice in the mail with an added $10 charge for late payment, or when you’re rushing at the last minute to try and find the perfect present for someone, when your friend calls to invite you for coffee but you know you really have to finish writing that paper, all add stress and worry to your life – and they are unnecessary additions. By following a few simple tips, you can streamline your tasks a little better and as you work through your tasks, your sense of achievement and self-worth increase also.

Think about the space you work in

Do you have a place where you are easily distracted, however often use this space as your work area? Create a space for yourself where you won’t be easily distracted, even if this means having to move away from your computer, a co-worker or even go to a coffee shop for a period of time. Try and have some inspirational and motivation products in the space where you complete most of your work. Perhaps a picture of water calms you (it also inspires creativity!), so it would be helpful to have a picture of water in your area if you find you are regularly stressed. Having a motivational saying on your pinup board can be extremely helpful. “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams . . . “ ~ Thoreau

Decide what Needs to be Done Sometimes you don’t get started because you actually don’t know what needs to be done. You know that there’s plenty that you should be doing, but you’re really not quite sure what those actions should be. So you really don’t do anything worthwhile because you know you shouldn’t be luxuriating when there’s work to be done.

Allocate the first part of your day to actually writing your To-Do List and prioritising your tasks. This list can be amended, added to and priorities changed as often as you like, but once you have your list in place, it gives you a concrete starting point and also an end point, so it’s easy to get started on your tasks. Spend most of your time on your high priority items, but also make sure that you spend a little time on the lower priorities also so that when they become high priorities they are a lot less daunting since you’ve already started working towards them.

Create a list of what you want to achieve This may be for a day, a week, a month or any other period of time, but when you have a list of goals written down and when you want/need to achieve them by, it’s much easier to focus and to begin work on them. It also gives you the satisfaction of being able to look at your list and mark off what you’ve completed. Even if you haven’t completed everything, it gives you the motivation to keep going. Creating a list of things to do also allows you to actually define what really needs to be done, rather than having the pressure of the thoughts running constantly through your mind. When you write down your list of items, you will often find that it’s not as confronting as you thought.

Visualise the End Result Before you begin to think about what needs to be done and the steps you need to take, spend a few minutes visualising the end result. See your task completed and experience the feeling of having achieved this commitment. Whether it’s a task you really just don’t want to do, or whether it’s something you’d love to achieve but feel that it’s too overwhelming for you, just picture the job done and see how good it feels. This will often give you the motivation you need to get started.

Break big tasks into smaller steps One of the biggest causes of procrastination is feeling overwhelmed by the task at hand. A large goal can seem overpowering when you only look at the big picture, so spend a few minutes breaking the task into smaller goals and the task will soon seem more effortless. It also gives you the added bonus of being able to cross off many items on your to-do list as you go along, and your sense of satisfaction and therefore motivation, will rapidly grow.

Do it for Just 15 Minutes Whatever the task is that you’re trying to avoid, decide that you’ll spend just 15 minutes on it. Set a timer if you want and get to work. Make sure though, that you’re actively working towards your goal. As fun as colour-coding your pens may be, it doesn’t go towards achieving your goal item, so it shouldn’t take up part of your 15 minutes. Once your 15 minutes is up, you can finish, or you can see if you could keep going with your project for another 15 minutes. Chances are that you’re already in the flow of your task and you’ll be able to keep going. If not, that’s okay too, but plan for when your next 15 minutes on this task will be.

Give yourself minor Rewards When you’re working on a task (or a series of tasks) that seem uninspiring or overwhelming to you, set yourself some reward points. Rewards can be simple, such as getting up to make a cup of tea or coffee, taking a walk around the block, or phoning a friend for a quick chat. When you’ve completed the task; or worked on it for a set amount of time, reward yourself with one of your chosen treats, and then tackle the job again.

Remind yourself that you have as much time as everyone else We all have 24 hours during the day, and sometimes we need to remind ourselves that our responsibilities are no greater than some other people who still manage to have enough time in their day. Think about some of the celebrities or famous people you admire and see what you can find out about their typical day. Sure they may have hired help, but they spend their time wisely on high priority tasks and fit as much as they can into each moment. You have as much time as they do, so it's just about ensuring you are making the most of every moment you have.

You do have time to fit in everything that you want to achieve. Your first steps are to:

~ Decide what needs to be done

~ Prioritise my activities ~ Develop some action steps

~ Create a timeframe and deadline if necessary

~ Get Started!


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