I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned that I’m a multi-year gold medalist in the Procrastination Olympics. (I don’t like to brag, you know.) I procrastinate the important. I procrastinate doing the mundane. If it can be put off until tomorrow, I will put it off until the day after tomorrow.
Case in point: I spent a cold and rainy Saturday morning running about town looking for a birthday gift for my uncle’s 80th birthday party that afternoon. I first learned about the party two weeks ago. We’ve had temps in the 50s and 60s, but no, I waited until the last minute when it was 30 degrees outside and pouring rain.
Second case in point: Despite the fact that I can see the gas needle going down, down, down on my car, I invariably wait until the little light comes on before I take it to fill up. Even then, I keep a running estimation of the miles I’ve driven and delay going to the gas station until I’m around the 20-mile mark. This means, of course that I’m usually standing out in frigid weather wondering if my hand is going to freeze to the pump handle.
Having read your blogs, I know I’m not the only one in this room who procrastinates. That’s why I spent a good deal of time Sunday afternoon contemplating the why and what to do about it of it all.
Why do we procrastinate?
A quick brainstorming session led me to these reasons:
-We don’t see a payoff, or the payoff is not enough of a priority for us.
-The task seems too daunting.
-It takes too much time.
-We don’t know how to do it.
-We don’t like doing it.
-We’re not good at it.
-We’re not “in the mood.”
-We don’t know where to start.
-We’re afraid of the results.
-We’re afraid of the lack of results.
Those are most of the reasons I’m personally familiar with. If I missed your reason for procrasting, sing out!
What to do about it?
More brainstorming, this time using things I’ve tried in the past with varying degrees of success. Maybe we can find something to help with our current procrastination problems:
Change our language. Instead of “I have to…”, say “I want to…” Replace “I can’t have…”, with “I’m not having…” (My mother quit a 40 year smoking habit by repeating, “I’m not smoking right now” to herself over and over (and over and over.)
Make a plan. Plan it in detail, right down to making appointments for key items:.
“At 9:00 p.m., I will sit down at the desk and pay my bills.”
“At 6:00 a.m., I will be at the gym.”
Break it up! Don’t think of a task in its entirety. Focus instead on individual pieces. A scheduled two mile walk then becomes 1) Getting dressed, 2) getting out the door, 3) the first ½ mile, etc.
Calculate the cost of not doing it. Assign each open task a “cost” or consequence if it’s not done. This will help prioritize. Anything that can cause financial, health, or family welfare repercussions should move to the top of the list.
Just get started. Often times our perceptions of the task change once it’s underway. We might procrastinate starting a two-mile walk, but if we focus instead on just getting our butts out the door and moving, it’s entirely possible our mindsets will shift once we get started.
Accept that your efforts might not be perfect. (This one’s got a big ol’ “Cammy, are you reading this?” sign attached to it.) The thing is that we’re human and that’s an automatic disqualification in the perfection sweepstakes. By focusing on progressing an action rather than perfecting it, we’ll move along with our plans much more quickly.
Recognize the benefits of accomplishing tasks. Every task has a payoff. In our fitness world, we see the payoff in improved strength, better health, greater confidence, and so on. In other areas, the payoff may be free time or more money. Or maybe we’re completing something to benefit someone else. Heck, the payoff may be the simple satisfaction of completing something difficult.
And if you can’t see the rewards, make some up! Whether it’s Cake Day or a spa day or simply an hour dedicated to reading for pleasure. Associating an unpleasant task with a desirable reward will go a long way in fueling the motivational fires and reducing the procrastination patterns.
With that, I will stop procrastinating getting a start on my day! I’ll start with blow-drying my hair.
Are you a procrastinator? If so, what actions will you take to overcome it? Choose from the list above or supply your own success-making tools. Please.
Have a great week, everyone!