Thursday, October 23, 2008

There’s Always Tomorrow: Eradicate Procrastination

To be always intending to make a new and better life but never find time to set about it is as... to put off eating and drinking and sleeping from one day to the next until you’re dead.”
- Og Mandino

Procrastination is the easiest thing in the world to perfect- and one of the hardest habits to break. There will always be a good reason to put off whatever you want to accomplish, whether it’s vacuuming the lounge room carpet or finally taking that Tropical Holiday you’ve been planning for years.

When you realize you’re putting something off, one of the best things you can do is to ask yourself why you don’t want to do it. The reasons for procrastination are as varied as the people who practice it: the task is boring or repetitive; you are afraid you won’t be able to handle it; the project is difficult or time-consuming; it is going to be an unpleasant experience; you dread the possible consequences of seeing the task through to completion. Once you know what is stopping you from moving ahead, you can determine your strategy for accomplishing your goal and get un-stuck.

How do you crush procrastination in its tracks? The remedies for moving past procrastination include:
• Just do it. Whatever the task you’re facing, simply pick a point and get started. Often things are not as bad as they seem, and once you start doing something it’s easier to build up momentum that will carry you through to the end. Tell yourself that when you finish the unpleasant task, you won’t have it hanging over your head and you can move on to better things.
• Break it up, people. Take a few minutes to break up larger tasks into small, manageable goals. For example, if you are attempting to organize your desk at work, you might pick one drawer and get that done, and then take a break and do something else before returning for the next drawer. Meeting a series of small goals is more motivating and encouraging than trying to tackle a huge project all at once.
• Cut through the fluff. Prepare yourself to work through distractions when you’re taking on a task. If possible, ignore the phone- and definitely resist the temptation to play Solitaire or check your e-mail a dozen times. Make sure your mind is made up to do whatever it is you’re doing and nothing else until it’s finished. You will feel better knowing it’s done, and you’ll waste less time on sideline projects.
• Stick to the program. Ensure you have enough time to finish the task you’re starting. If you know you’re going to be interrupted or run out of time before you’re through, choose one part of the task to complete instead of trying to rush through the whole thing. Rushing to meet a deadline you know you can’t make causes more stress, and can actually make things happen slower because you’re worried that you won’t be able to accomplish what you’ve set out to do. Give yourself a break, and your stress level will thank you.
• Expect the unexpected. Despite our best positive thinking efforts, things do occasionally take a turn for the unexpected. Delays are a given in many situations. When you’re planning a task or goal, it is important to factor in time in case things go wrong. Delays are a major facilitator of procrastination: it’s easy to convince yourself to put things off when you already have to wait. Make sure you have a backup plan in place so you can avoid putting things off and still meet your completion goals comfortably.

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