Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.
Why is it that when we are supposed to be cleaning the house, we are compelled to write, when we are supposed to be writing, we are compelled to work in the garden, when we are supposed to be working in the garden, we wish to be indoors, when we are supposed to be working indoors, our noses are pressed against the glass, gazing at the garden?
We don’t even need to get into email, Facebook or the other social media time-sucks, do we?
It happens to the best of us once in awhile. It happens to the rest of us now and then. It happens to a few of us all the time. And that’s when the big trouble starts.
Procrastination sucks the life out of dreams, hopes, goals and plans. It is a monster that ruins marriages, friendships, businesses and any other type of relationship you can have. It can get you fired. It can ruin your reputation. It can leave you broke and miserable.
HOW TO STOP PROCRASTINATING
The first key to stop procrastinating is to determine what type of procrastinator you are.
The experts have their opinions but for us simpler folk, I’ve narrowed it down to these categories.
- The Rebel This is mine so I’ll go first. I rebel against everything, even lists I made myself. As SOON as I make something my first priority on the list, there is a nasty little excuse monster that starts up in my head that has a reason—and dang if it isn’t a GOOD reason—that I really should be doing something else first instead. I work hard, I just am doing something else other than what I was supposed to get done. I don’t like to follow orders. I want to be free to wander about unstructured. I…am…a…brat. You would think a person would grow out of this. Not happening. Though I am learning to spot the signs of the excuse monster before too much damage occurs.
- The Thumb Twiddler This poor guy’s got it bad. It is the “In a minute” syndrome. “I’m just going to sit here and twiddle my thumbs and read one more e-mail, watch one more minute of soaps, check out Facebook…Twitter…Pinterest…and whatever comes after that. This person’s behind never leaves the chair. There is no time management because there is no sense of time. Time is twiddled away and at the end of the day, they are shocked to find out that the day has left and they don’t know where it went.
- The Adrenaline Junkie It takes a strong shot of the “juice” to motivate this one. Just looking at the “To do” list doesn’t quite do it. Somewhere along the line they lost their ability to move without a swift kick in the rear. (Or as we say at Creative Clarity Coaching—A kick in the patootie!) All the other categories default to this eventually, the difference is, that while most of us hate it when we find ourselves here, the junkie lives for it.
- The Cowardly Lion This fellow would love to get things done—if only he could decide what to do.If only he could be assured he wouldn’t fail. The last thing he wants to do is procrastinate. He is just waiting until he gets the job done perfectly. Fear of failure is paralyzing the Lion and keeping him tied up in ropes.
HERE IS THE GOOD NEWS
Once you have identified which type of procrastinator you are you can take steps to work to undo it. Procrastinators aren’t born. It is a learned behavior. It can be unlearned. It is based on habits and conscious and unconscious beliefs that we have about ourselves that keep us circling in destructive patterns. By becoming proactive, we can fight procrastination and reach our goals.
You may have felt like you have identified with more than one or that you thought of more. That’s okay. Whatever the list sparked for you, write it down and see what insight you received. The important thing is recognizing the key patterns of behavior so that we can begin to take charge of it.
Here are tips to beat the four basic types of procrastinators.
- The Rebel Be prepared! Awareness is the biggest part of the cure. As soon as you hear that little voice, you’ve already won because you are not caught off guard. Plan your list carefully and ahead of time. Make sure that your list is prioritized so that it truly has the A+ priorities in the right order so you aren’t second guessing yourself in the moment. Remind yourself that you have a choice, and you are choosing to keep your eyes on the goal, and that you want to be the best you can be. Give yourself rewards for sticking to the list. After each one is checked off, tell yourself what a great job you did. You earned it and you love being your own boss!
- The Thumb Twiddler Look, here is the bad news. You have to go cold turkey. You need to identify your time wasters and put them aside until after you get some work done. Do not touch them even for one second. Remember when your Mom told you to eat your vegetables first and then you can eat your dessert? Well she was right. But it doesn’t have to be quite as bad as all that. You do have to eat your veggies first, but you don’t have to eat everything on your plate all in one sitting. Part of your trouble is you feel so overwhelmed by the big picture that you never start. We are going to break it up. This is the FLyLady fifteen minute rule and it’s brilliant. You just can’t sit down on your Bum until you’ve started, OK? Good. Go get a Timer. Set it for Fifteen Minutes. NOW START Your Project and don’t stop until the timer goes off. Now you can take a timed break and then set it for a new fifteen minutes and work again. Honestly, I think you should go to the FlyLady website right now. You need her if you are a Thumb Twiddler.
- The Adrenaline Junkie First realize your addiction is to the thrill, not the procrastination. Take up bungee jumping and get your work done! Make a deal with yourself. Give yourself something to look forward to. Barter yourself. Say- “Self- here’s the deal. We are going to set up a new deadline on that project for one week early and the next day after we finish it, we are going to do something exciting! Keep yourself inspired with excitement not related to your work! Also, you might want to examine why it is that your work isn’t exciting to you. Are you avoiding doing it because it is the wrong work for you altogether? Does your personality need something else? We weren’t all put here to sit at a desk. Take a good look inside. Don’t avoid the big questions.
- The Cowardly Lion You, my friend, are a perfectionist. I know that you are looking all around you at your stacks of unfinished work and mess and clutter and you are shaking your head no and thinking….oh, she is talking about somebody else. No…I am talking about you. Yes, Felix from The Odd Couple was a perfectionist, and that is who we tend to think of when we use that term, but there is another perfectionist and that is the one who so wants to be perfect and so fears messing up and that the world will see our flaws that we freeze like a deer in headlights and don’t get anything done. So do this one thing. Pick one tiny action step and just start. Know that you are going to fail at it a little bit anyway so it won’t matter. Just say to yourself…good enough is better than not doing it at all. Pick just one thing-set the timer for fifteen minutes and Get started.
This isn’t an exhaustive list. There are a lot more. This is a drop in the bucket. There are posts and posts to be written on each one of these. What are some of the things that you do to fight procrastination? Which ones do you identify with? How do you manage time?
Speaking of time…I have to go, my timer is about to ring!