Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I Resolve to Stamp Out Procrastination!

"I can do that tomorrow . . ." How often do you say that about both the large and small things in life, the important and the trivial? How often do you procrastinate, intentionally postpone, needlessly delay, drag your feet, slack off, and habitually avoid taking action. How often do you put off actions that you must eventually perform? How often do you shove your dreams to the back burner out of fear of failure, laziness, or perfectionism? The answer to each question is undoubtedly "Yes, at times" - thanks, in part, to human nature. Each one of us falls victim to the Someday, Someday, Someday Syndrome: "Someday I will _________."
There is a better alternative. Why not replace the Someday, Someday, Someday Syndrome with a more powerful, positive, and productive daily habit: "Today I am _______." You can do it if you so choose, but you have to admit you are procrastinating, examine the reasons why, build a plan that will enable you to change your behavior, and create a new set of habits by 'doing'. You are probably thinking "easier said than done" and you are right. It is easy to procrastinate. When you are doing it you 'feel like you are not risking anything'. When you shove a task, activity, or dream, to the back burner it is 'out of sight, out of mind'. You don't have to think about it. You can go on about your life and focus on things that you really want to do, tasks that are more fun, more enjoyable, and less threatening.
Actually, however, the task that you are ignoring is still on your 'Things To Do List', and every time you review your list - or worse, every time your boss, or spouse reminds you that the task must be done - it creates a pang of anxiety, or worry, yet the procrastination persists. You put off doing the task until the last possible moment, creating unnecessary stress in the race to completion. Sadly, in the case of dreams, day-to-day life marches on, your dream goes unfulfilled, and you end up with painful regrets for 'what could have been' at the end of your time on Earth.
Instead thinking about it: "Maybe I'll stop procrastinating tomorrow," do something to improve the quality of your life today. If you wait until tomorrow - tomorrow may never arrive. If you are waiting for a better time to act, it may never happen. Do the best you can with your time, talents, and the circumstances in which you find yourself, today. Make a decision to stop procrastinating and put that goal at the top of your priority list, knowing that it will improve your life. If you need some help, consider these simple, common sense steps that will result in a plan that enables you to live for today rather waiting for a tomorrow that may never see the light of day:
  1. Find a quiet place where you can think, perhaps your favorite coffee house, or maybe a park. Pull out your your journal and put your thinking cap on. Examine your life and your daily habits. Make a list of all the things, large and small, that you are postponing. For instance: Tomorrow I will begin saving money for an emergency fund. Tomorrow I will plan that dream trip to Italy. Tomorrow I will go back to school and finish my college degree. Tomorrow I will write my novel. Tomorrow I will begin an exercise program. Tomorrow I will make peace with my family. You get the idea. Develop a comprehensive list.
  2. Examine each item on your list and ask yourself "why" you are procrastinating. What is standing in the way of starting, and finishing, each task on your list? Some tasks are mandatory, yet you delay: Perhaps you are postponing a work project because it is something that you are fully qualified to do, but it's not a job that you enjoy, so you are dragging your feet. Some tasks invoke fear, so you hold back: You are worried that you don't have the skill, or ability, to write that novel you've always dreamed about; or perhaps your exercise program didn't provide results quick enough, so you gave up. Some tasks take a lot time and loads of sweat equity: Perhaps you want to tackle that long list of home improvement projects, but you never seem to find enough time, or energy. Some tasks involve resources you don't believe you possess: Perhaps you want to begin saving for retirement, but you are living paycheck-to-paycheck, so you are waiting until your finances improve. There are so many scenarios, each one unique to each individual. What is important is that you draw an accurate picture of your own life.
  3. Admit that you are procrastinating and make a decision to change today. Make a promise to yourself to stop procrastinating, and to replace that bad habit with a good, proactive habit: Today I am tackling my dreams and responsibilities with enthusiasm and pride.
  4. Recognize that you cannot immediately tackle every item on your list. Prioritize the tasks and dreams. Which one can you tackle right now - and finish today? Start with that task. It's an easy 'win'. Then, knock off all the quick, easy 'Things To Do', rapidly, one after another, as soon as it is reasonably possible; it will shorten your list and allow you to focus on the tougher tasks. It will also send you down the path toward building a new, healthier habit: Proactive vs. Procrastinate. This effort will contribute to your confidence, self esteem and momentum, as you prioritize and tackle, one-by-one, all long-range, labor-intensive tasks on your list.
  5. Study your list and determine which items are time sensitive and must be handled, sooner rather than later, then set up a timeline and tackle them based on their deadlines. Comb through your list and pull out your cherished dreams, and determine which one invokes the most passion, interest, and desire. Make a firm decision today to pursue that dream because it is something that you would love to do. Put that dream at the top of your priority list for the next 12 months, then do your homework about what it will take to fulfill your dream, build a plan, and tackle one small goal, one day at a time for one full year.