By Ellen G. Goldman
Do you ever find yourself putting off a task you really need to and want to get done? Every morning, you tell yourself you will take care of it today, and somehow the hours pass and the task is still left undone.
Often I hear clients say, “If only I would stop procrastinating, things would be so much better!” Procrastination is everywhere. We see it in our kids, our spouses, our business associates, and as much as we hate to admit it, in ourselves.
Well, I admit it. Sometimes, I procrastinate. But I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. I think the key to avoid procrastination some of the time, if not all of the time, is to ask, “Why am I procrastinating?”
Often we procrastinate because we really aren’t ready or in the mood to do the task we need to do. By waiting a bit, the final project may be that much better.
Take my monthly newsletter, for instance. I truly enjoy writing it, and sending it off to my readers. Most months, it is written and posted and ready to go as scheduled. However, some months, I find myself getting down to the wire with only a few days left before I can possibly reach my personal goal of sending it off the first week of the month.
I used to get really upset with myself whenever that would happen. I didn’t understand why I was procrastinating. I would tell myself, “Enough, just sit down and get it done.” But the more I did that, the more I experienced writer’s block.
So I began to analyze the situation, and figure out what was going on. Why was I procrastinating? After a great deal of thought, I realized it happens when I am just not inspired and ready to write.
I had planned to prepare this newsletter before leaving for our family vacation. I had a busy week preceding, filled with client appointments, classes, a speaking engagement, and of course, packing! When the newsletter didn’t get done, I told myself I would write it on the plane. When that didn’t happen, I told myself I would write it while relaxing by the pool.
All the while, I knew that none of those options would work. I now know from experience, if I just let it go, it will come to me. Sure enough, today while doing an early morning workout, I laid out the entire newsletter in my head!
In no time, it was on a word document and ready to deliver to my readers. So here is what I’ve found out that helps me when I’m feeling stuck. Before you can end procrastination, you need to ask the question, “Why am I procrastinating?” Check out the answers below, and the tips to get moving.
“I am overwhelmed.” Break it down into smaller, more manageable pieces. Make a list of every step that needs to be done to accomplish the task. Focus on one detail at a time, and use self-imposed deadlines for completion.
“I don’t understand what I need to do.” Where can you find the essential information? If you require clarification from a boss or business colleague, get it. Do some computer searches and gather the information that’s necessary. Once you comprehend the outcome you are looking for, you’ll have the know-how to get going.
“I don’t feel inspired.” If you need your creative juices to flow to complete the job, taking a break and doing something totally unrelated is probably your best bet. Exercise, get outdoors, or sleep on it, and you just might find the inspiration.
“I dread doing the task because I find it overly difficult, complicated, and time consuming.” It might be time to delegate this one. As much as I enjoy writing this newsletter, that’s how much I hate posting it on my email server. So, I no longer do that. My virtual assistant does. The money I pay her to do what she is an expert at, and I am clearly not, is well worth it. I can then spend that time doing what I do best – writing, coaching, speaking or enjoying my family and friends.
“I’ve procrastinated so much, my to-do list is enormous, and I don’t know what to do first.” Take a deep breath, minimize all distractions, and take the time to prioritize and actually write out your list. Keep the items that have the greatest personal and professional payoff on top (income producing, growth promoting, life satisfying, etc.) and start with the number one item on your list.
“I am a chronic procrastinator. Why do today, what I can put off until tomorrow?” If you are constantly avoiding necessary tasks, try adopting a “Do it now!” attitude. Every time a thought comes into your head (I need to pay this bill!), if you are not working on something important, stop and just do it! If you are involved in something, write down the thought and attend to it as soon as you complete the one you’re working on.
“This task is boring and I hate it.” There are things that regardless of whether we like it or not, we have to do them. So find a way to make it fun. Listen to great music while cleaning your house, use a speaker phone and talk to a friend while folding laundry, listen to books on tape while driving around town doing chores. And when all else fails, build in a reward system for completion. Have something to look forward to will increase your motivation to just get it done!