Hello, my name is Traci, and I’m a huge procrastinator. And if you’re reading this, later, because you know, you put off reading it…it’s because you’re a procrastinator too. I wish I could wave my magic wand and make all of the things I’m putting off doing would just go away, but they persist. And then they compile. And compile. And compile. And then the feeling of overwhelm hits me like a ton of bricks.
Why do I/we do this to myself/ourselves? We don’t know, because we put off examining the reasons why we do this! I forced myself to look at the reasons why I procrastinate, and perhaps you’ll recognize some of these reasons in yourself.
One of the biggest reasons why I put off doing things, is because it creates more work. You start a simple home repair, and then you begin uncovering a whole bunch of other work that was done poorly or not done at all. This means more work for you because now you’re not only fixing the original problem but several other problems connected to it. The simple 30-minute repair just became a home remodeling job!
Another reason why I put off doing things, is because I’m afraid of failure…or success. Failure leads to embarrassment and admitting you’re not all that and a bag of chips. Success means…more work! Success means I’ve done something right, and now I have to keep doing things right. Tired of playing games you can’t win?
This one is kind of weird…but I remember when I was cleaning out my mother’s place after she passed, she had a lot of unfinished craft and sewing projects. She’d start them, and then not finish for some reason. It all sort of clicked when I found a quote she saved, “She who dies with the most fabric…wins!” I think she didn’t finish her projects as a means of immortality. Perhaps she had an unconscious belief that she wasn’t allowed to die until she finished her projects. By not finishing them, she could live longer.
According to researchers, there are 15 reasons why things don’t get done. If the researchers procrastinated on their research, then there may be more reasons why we procrastinate! These 15 reasons will do for now:
Not knowing what needs to be done
Not knowing how to do something
Not wanting to do something
Not caring if it gets done or not
Not caring when something gets done
Not feeling like doing something
Being in the habit of waiting until the last minute
Believing that you work better under pressure
Thinking that you can finish it at the last minute
Lacking the initiative to get started
Blaming sickness or poor health
Waiting for the right moment
Needing time to think about the task
Delaying one task in favor of working on another
So…how does one beat procrastination? Here’s my method:
1. Create a list of what you think needs to be done.
2. Give that task a priority. You can use A, B, & C. I sort my tasks by Stephen Covey’s Time Matrix Management:
1. Urgent/Important (Do Immediately)
2. Not Urgent/Important (Schedule)
3. Not Important/Urgent (Interruptions) and
4. Not Urgent/Not Important (Delegate)
3. Be sure to include deadline dates for each task. If there is no deadline date, then it automatically becomes Not Urgent/Not Important. Perhaps that shouldn’t be on your list at all.
4. Imagine how good you’ll feel once the task at hand is done. What benefits will you get? What benefits will others get? Write those down, to remind yourself why you’re doing what you're doing. You’re changing your focus from being forced to embrace “the suck” to the satisfaction you’ll feel once it’s done.
5. Break the task down into “Little Wins.” The hardest part of any task is to “get the ball rolling.” A “Little Win” does just that. What is the smallest step you can take to get the ball rolling on this task? For instance, if you know you ‘should’ be walking 30 minutes every day, create a “little wins” goal of just putting on your walking shoes. Once your shoes are on, then create a “little wins” goal of walking for 2 minutes. For those who want to lose weight, the tendency is to look at the total weight you feel you need to lose. That number can be overwhelming! Instead of looking at the big number, take a deep breath, and reset your goal for a “little win” of a half pound. Know that your “little wins” will add up to big wins for yourself! If you walk 2 minutes, 10 times, that’s 20 minutes! If you lose a half pound 20 times, that’s 10 pounds! If you have a list of things to do, start with an easy task, something that takes 5 minutes to complete. “Little wins” are designed to get you going, and once you start feeling a sense of accomplishment, you’ll keep going.
7. Celebrate your wins! If you accomplished an amazing task…treat yourself to an evening of entertainment, a massage, or a fun evening with friends and family.
I hope you found some of these tips helpful, and I hope you’ll share your “little wins” (and big wins) with me!