The dictionary defines procrastination as “to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done.”
Now everyone has procrastinated at some point or delayed taking action in a certain situation, but when procrastination becomes a real issue, it can seriously affect your performance and, in turn, all areas of your life.
Perhaps you miss opportunities because you delay taking action– or you receive late notices because you don’t pay your bills on time. Maybe you delay starting a work project until the deadline is immediate. Or you leave your gift shopping until the last minute.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Before we can look at a technique to change this behavior, it’s important to consider just a few reasons why you may procrastinate.
First, you may decide that tomorrow seems like a better day to get started– or if you can’t give something a lot of time (like the whole day), there’s no sense in getting started.
This is really a stalling response because you don’t feel like doing the activity.
People who might be termed “feel good” types—where feeling good or enjoying something is most important to them—are often procrastinators. They are looking for instant good feelings rather than a delayed gratification that comes from doing the task and not feeling good now at this moment– but feeling good later when the task is completed.
The trouble is that if you delay doing the task, if you’re a feel-good type, you probably won’t feel any more like doing it tomorrow than you did today.
Second, many procrastinators tell themselves that they work better under pressure. These people are often perfectionists. Did you know that perfectionism and procrastination go hand in hand?
You see, by waiting, you may be giving yourself permission to limit the amount of time you have to work on something and, therefore, giving yourself the excuse of accepting the end result based on not having enough time to make it perfect! You get yourself off the “it has to be perfect” hook. And you may even get a rush out of the last-minute push while settling for whatever the end product becomes.
And there’s still another type of procrastinator: Some people avoid doing the task because they are what I call “decision-impaired”—and by that I mean that they have difficulty making a decision because they’re concerned about making the wrong decision. Of course, they forget that not deciding or delaying too long can create a decision.
So, to end the procrastination game, you have to understand that you’re probably getting some kind of pay-off from that behavior, like those we’ve mentioned, or you would be unlikely to continue to procrastinate.
You see, if you’re trying to change a behavior, but you ultimately (consciously or subconsciously) gain more from staying the same than from changing, you will find it more difficult to change that behavior. So you have to decide what the pay-off is.
Once you realize that the pay-off, such as feeling good, settling for less than a perfect result, or avoiding making a decision, doesn’t really benefit you ultimately, you can change what you’re doing.
Here are just a few tips:
First– just get started. Take a step. Don’t get hung up on how. Don’t look at the clock and decide that you don’t have enough time. Break your task into manageable steps and, seriously, just get started.
Second—if you’re a feel-good type who avoids getting started, you have to realize that when you tell yourself that you’ll feel more like doing your task later, that you’re lying to yourself. You’re actually going to feel really good when you complete the task. That’s the real feel-good time. So remain focused, willing, and committed to your goal.
And some people plan a reward that they will receive after the completion of the task which motivates them to keep going.
Above all, focus on taking action and keep yourself moving. You can change your motivation and the quality of your daily life!