Procrastination – probably the number one cause for people to be disorganised, for not achieving what they want, for not being the best they could be. What people don’t realise, however, you only need the right tools to conquer it.
Procrastination is a little bit like an addiction, once you suffer from it you have got to battle it and keep on top of it for the rest of your life. It is so easy to slip back. But also, like any other addiction, it can be overcome.
And now, let’s brush away the reasons why you might be procrastinating and we will basically leave you with no excuse to simply get on with it.
The Number One Reason:
“I haven’t got the time right now.”
This is the most popular excuse for procrastinators. The thing is you are probably right. You have not got the whole block of time it takes to tackle the spare room, or the whole of the ironing pile, or the complete reorganisation of the kitchen. BUT, and there’s a good reason for the capital letters, you have got 10 minutes, or maybe even 20 or 30. And that is all it takes to make a start. Start by sorting through one box, ironing 10 or 20 items, tackling one single drawer. And if you do that every day, or maybe even twice a day if motivation strikes and time allows then you will realise that you are making slow but steady progress.
A Chinese proverb states: Even the longest journey starts with one single step. And this is exactly how you will be able to overcome the lurking monster that is procrastination.
If you find yourself still procrastinating, then there must be other, deeper rooted reasons behind that. These possible other reasons fall into two categories, ones concerning the project itself, the others your personality style.
First, let’s look at the project itself. The project might be perceived as
2. Too difficult
4. Impossible to finish
5. Waste of time
1. If a project or the outcome of the project is perceived as threatening, thoughts like “I’m in trouble if I get this wrong” might be going through your head. In this case a natural reaction is not to start the project at all or not to progress beyond a certain point so as to avoid failure. In cases like this make sure you have all the facts right.
“What is the worst thing that could happen – realistically?” And how likely is this to happen? – You will probably realise that things are never as bad as they seem.
“What exactly do I need to do to get it right?” – Once you know exactly what to do and how to do it, you have already won.
“Have I got all the skills and abilities to do this project?” – If the question is yes, great! If it is no, then you should probably consider to get someone to help or delegate the task itself.
2. If you think a project is too difficult, you might never start it. Sit down and thing about what is difficult. Are you just unsure of how to start and how to break the project into smaller manageable chunks? Find an expert on the subject, someone who has done a similar project before and ask for help.
3. If you think a project is boring, try and make it more interesting, Set yourself a challenge. See how much you can achieve in a certain amount of time. And then for the next chunk, see if you can beat your previous record. Or put some of your favourite music on while you work. If the project allows (like a mountain of ironing, or shredding) watch TV while you work.
4. If you think a project is impossible to finish, there might be two reasons. Either it’s the type of project that literally never ends (like housework) or it is a very large project. Again, breaking it up into smaller portions will help. Even Mount Everest can be climbed by doing one step at a time! Set yourself a daily target and you will be up and running in no time.
5. Finally, if you consider the project a waste of time, re-evaluate it. Does it really need to be done? If you are doing it to please someone else, and you see absolutely no sense in it, try to find out why it is so important for the other person. Or is it simply one of those jobs that need to be redone on a regular basis like tidying up or ironing. Use one of the solutions from number 4 to get the job done. Some jobs do seem to be a waste of time but we would sink into crud and chaos if we didn’t do them at all.
The second set of reasons is to do with someone’s personality. These could be
2. Thriving on adrenaline
3. Lack of self confidence
4. Internalised negatives
5. Externalised positives
Let’s look at these hurdles to getting things done in detail, see what they are about and how they manifest and what you can do about them.
1. A lot of people have a perfectionist trait; some more, some less. “I can’t start this project until I have got everything I need and until the conditions are absolutely perfect.” This kind of mindset is fine if that perfect condition is feasible and you have a good track record of starting and finishing your projects. If you don’t, then your perfectionism is probably an excuse for not starting the project at all.
Turn it around and ask yourself, what is the minimum I need for this project? Once you’ve got that sorted, put a start date in your diary and get that project on the road.
2. “I work better under pressure.” We all know people like that and we might have used that phrase ourselves. Again, there are two ways of dealing with this.
Number one, it’s a good excuse not to start until the last possible moment, and it’s simply a way to put things off. Make life easier for yourself; and divide your project into segments and do one each day until it’s done.
Number two, if you literally work better under pressure, and some of us do, then make the project more challenging. Set mini-goals with a shorter deadline. This way you keep yourself on your toes but are still making timely progress towards your end goal.
Also, get a project buddy. Tell someone about your project, and the deadline. Make yourself accountable. And be sure that certain someone is a person who will check up on you, how well you are progressing and make a pact that you will be honest with them. Nothing gets the adrenaline flowing like knowing that someone is about to check up on you and you really don’t want to say that you have not even started.
3. If you suffer from a lack of self confidence and feel that you simply can’t tackle the project try one of these options. Find out what the first thing is you need to do to start the project, the very first action that needs doing before anything else can be done. Do that, then find out the next step and so on. Also, divide the project into smaller chunks. Smaller bites are easier to digest, the same goes for project size. If you are unsure of how to do this, find someone who has done a similar project before and ask for advice. That way you get some expert help and you will soon be on the way to completing the once daunting task.
4. Internalising negatives means that you always look for faults within yourself. If you do this, you will quite easily come up with negative emotions, such as “I’m lazy that’s why I don’t get things done” or “I’m stupid that’s why I don’t know where to start”. First of all, I can assure you that none of this is true. You are neither lazy nor stupid or anything else of that kind. You might lack motivation or not be an expert on a particular subject but you can easily do something about that.
Why don’t you think of a treat that you reward yourself with, once you have completed the first part of the task and then keep rewarding yourself for every bit that you achieve until the project is completed. And just as with lack of self confidence, there is no shame in asking people for help and advice on how to tackle a particular project. We don’t all have to reinvent the wheel and most people are very happy to share their skills and knowledge.
5. Externalised positives are usually the reverse side of the same coin as internalised negatives. It means that you attribute anything positive that you do to outside influences and not to your skills and abilities, such as “I was lucky last time and it was easy. I could never do that again.” It is usually a sign of lack of self confidence.
Achieving something has most often nothing to do with luck. It is more likely to be the result of hard work and skill. Luck is good for gambling and that’s about it. And when you found something easy then you had the skills and talent to do it and nothing less. Don’t hide your light under a bush – as the saying goes and be proud of your achievements – especially when it comes to what you tell yourself. We are usually our own worst critics and forget to be our own strongest supporters.
Any more excuses? Or did we cover them all and showed you how to conquer them? So what’s stopping you now?
Isi Dixon is a Professional Organiser and Motivational Speaker in the Nottingham area of Great Britain. She specializes in helping homes and small businesses make more of their time and space. If you would like to find out more, please visit her website http://www.wellorganised.org or her blog http://wellorganised.blogspot.com .