“I don’t think I procrastinate very much” I told my wife as I clicked on the latest funny dog video that my brother had sent me.
I’d been trying to finish this blog post for the better part of two days but like so many others I always seemed to find something else that was easier, more important or more fun than acutely sitting down and doing the work.
Very few of us consider ourselves procrastinators, yet this affliction is responsible for massive amounts of lost productivity and has gotten steadily worse in the last 30 years or so. One statistic I read suggested that in 1978 only 5% of the population admitted to procrastinating on a daily basis while a study in 2007 noted that over 20% of people surveyed said they procrastinated every day. It is thought that over 90% of students practice some form of procrastination regularly.
The stress filled, plugged in, lap top toting, cell phone answering, constantly on the go lifestyle that has become the norm in our society is supposed to make us more productive than we were prior to the information age.
Paradoxically, I think in many ways the overload of information has had just the opposite effect.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not blaming technology for the procrastination epidemic, it’s simply another in the long list of things that we allow to waste our time. The key being what we allow or don’t allow into our lives.
I struggle with this malady every day. I’m a writer and a blogger. I write non-fiction e-books and post (Hopefully) helpful information on my blog.
Sometimes I wake up and realize I haven’t written anything for three or four days.
Without recognizing it I have allowed stress, overwhelm and lack of discipline to sap my motivation and crush my creative process.
Procrastination is something we all live with. It’s lurking just around the corner or under our desk waiting to silently and stealthily suck the productivity from our lives. It never goes away and a little bit like alcoholism, there is no real cure.
We must all admit to the fact that we procrastinate. That is the only way to defeat the beast. Once we have told the truth we can then move forward, living in the moment and choosing productivity and action over laziness and overwhelm on a day to day and even a moment to moment basis.
I finally decided I’d had enough!
I made it my mission to delve into this stealthy and cunning disorder and come up with strategies and techniques that could be implemented by real world people on an everyday basis to rid themselves once and for all of this nasty problem.
I ended up writing an e-book about it.
(More on that in a minute.)
First I’d like to detail the 16 essential ways I found to defeat procrastination and live a more productive, “on purpose” life.
Here they are:
1) Know yourself / Be honest with yourself.
Spend some time thinking about how much and understanding why you procrastinate. Be brutally honest, the only one you are hurting by avoiding the truth is yourself.
Reading this post is a great first step!
It’s very hard to be productive and very easy to allow procrastination to creep into the proceedings if you cant find the file you need or are constantly looking for your reading glasses. (I finally broke down and got one of those chains to hang them around my neck like my Grandmother used have.)
3) Fully commit to a project or goal
Commitment is a scary word. Just ask the guy who has been seeing a certain girl for about three years now. Usually he can’t even say the “C” word, but if completing a certain project or goal on time is really important, you’ll need to decide what the word commitment really means to you and make some decisions about what you are ready to do to reach those goals. Being committed means being willing to do almost anything legal, moral and ethical to accomplish your stated task.
If you sit right next to chatty Kathy at work or have your high definition TV set up on the shelf across from your work space at home you may need to do a little rearranging of your environment.
When you’re at work, work. When it’s time to play, play. The procrastination beastie loves it when you attempt to mix the two.
5) Practice having a positive mental attitude.
If you are always complaining or thinking in a defeatist way you are literally inviting the procrastination monster into your space. Even if you have to “Fake it till you make it” it is imperative that you talk to yourself in a positive uplifting way and believe that whatever it is you are doing is not only possible but is virtually a done deal!
6) Divide the task or goal into smaller more manageable chunks.
Question: How do you eat an elephant?
Answer: One bite at a time.
Sometimes our projects or goals loom so large that it’s easier to simply shrug our shoulders and do something else, like play candy crush and hope the boss doesn’t notice.
It helps immensely to parse out bigger projects into smaller very manageable tasks. This not only allows you to take baby steps toward the completion of the project but can create momentum and a feeling of accomplishment as you go.
7) Quit fantasizing about stuff.
Wishing a goal was already completed or dreaming about getting a project done on time and under budget is the very foundation of the procrastination affliction.
You must view outcomes unemotionally and objectively. The truth will set you free!
Bumping up against an obstacle or a road block is a very common reason to stop, take a deep breath, head to the refrigerator and crack open a cold one.
By taking some time to think ahead prior to delving into a project or task and identifying obstacles that may crop up, you can be ready for them and avoid the onset of procrastination.
9) Reward yourself for victories along the way.
Sometimes it gets to be long and tedious along the road to completing a task or accomplishing a goal. Set milestones along the way and reward yourself for reaching them.
There’s nothing I like better than a Grande mocha latte from Starbucks after I complete a chapter for one of my books. (I’m from Seattle where It’s pretty obligatory to drink highly sweetened coffee when celebrating almost anything)
If you catch yourself playing angry birds instead completing the report that was due yesterday, take it easy. We all do it, just use that moment of clarity to swerve onto the path of productivity and get going on the report. Don’t waste time feeling guilty.
11) Be accountable.
Being accountable means doing the right thing even when nobody is looking. I know, I know that’s also the definition of integrity. But doesn’t being accountable build integrity?
In this case being accountable to yourself is the man thing. If you can be accountable for the promises you’ve made to yourself it’s easy to be accountable to others. Being accountable means pushing ahead when the procrastination bug is pulling at your sleeve.
Connecting with a person who has the same values and goals with whom you can share your desires and hoped for dreams and who will objectively listen and not buy into your excuses will help immensely to keep you on the track to your goals. Procrastination hates accountability buddies.
13) Confront your fear.
Fear of failure can stop you dead in your tracks. Procrastination takes over and rules the roost until you can fight through the pain and irrational emotions.
It’s best if you never allow fear to take root in the first place.
Keep in mind that about 90 percent of the things we fear never even materialize.
14) Avoid overwhelm.
Becoming overwhelmed with the unbelievable amount of “Stuff” we have to do every day is one of the easiest ways to allow procrastination to sneak into our lives. One of the best ways to fight overwhelm is to de-commit on the things that you can identify as not being of vital importance on your schedule. That’s right look at your calendar and prioritize the things that you are doing, then start crossing off the things that are not of A+ importance. You’ll be amazed at the feeling of freedom this will give you.
15) Fight the perfectionist habit.
Having to have everything just exactly right before we proceed is buying right into the hands of procrastination. Striving for excellence is a wonderful practice. We all should want to be the best we can be and do the most complete and impeccable work we can do. Be very careful however not to allow your perfectionism to grind you to a halt. Learn to know when good enough is good enough.
I don’t think there is any way to completely eliminate procrastination from our lives, but if you’ll keep this list of strategies handy and learn to recognize the little beastie when he approaches you’ll at least have some tools to be able to fight back when he pounces.