Webster defines procrastination as a means to defer or delay action until an opportunity is lost. If you could change only one habit, eliminating procrastination would be the one that will put you on the roadway to success. The tendency to procrastinate devours time. Opportunities come knocking at the door in a multitude of ways – some as gentle as a wave upon the sand and others as turbulent as a tidal wave. These moments hit when you least expect or want them. Learn to embrace change and take advantage of opportunities. If you turn your back, you just might be missing something special. Quite often, you discover wonderful lessons in the messiest of challenges.
Someone once wrote, “Procrastination is the only thing I have time for!” Is this statement true for you, too? Do you possess a bag full of excuses or promise yourself that you will start first thing tomorrow morning? Here are some reasons people use to justify procrastination and how you might overcome this handicap while getting organized.
1. This project is too overwhelming!
If you believe you do not have enough time to complete a project and think you will find the needed time later, you are only deceiving yourself. Eventually, you realize that the probable time never comes. Yes, you are procrastinating. You fill your days with busyness and miss the opportunities.
The first step to avoid procrastination is to take time to plan. Get out some paper and a pen and divide overwhelming tasks into manageable components. Then schedule 15-minute blocks of time on your daily calendar to accomplish each mini-step. Just the act of scheduling an appointment with yourself increases the probability that you will do it.
All large tasks or activities can be broken down into small increments. Alan Lakein, author of “How To Get Control of Your Time and Your Life” describes the “Swiss Cheese” technique: work on a small portion of the task for fifteen minutes each day, making small holes in the overwhelming project until it looks like Swiss cheese and finally disappears altogether. Approaching large tasks this way eliminates the feeling of being overwhelmed.
2. It is just a little task and can wait!
Small chores are easily pushed to the background in favor of more important stuff. Most of these little tasks have to be done at some point; they are the little irritants that constantly prick you. You do not like to do them, so you push them aside. The tendency to procrastinate on a small job eventually increases the stress involved when you come to the realization that it must be done now. However, once started, it usually is not quite as bad as you anticipated.
Somewhere in the back of your mind, you think that if you procrastinate long enough the task will disappear, or something in the future will eliminate the necessity of doing it. Pressure develops when you fail to accomplish a small job and now it must be done at an inconvenient time or the price is higher than if you had done it before.
The longer you put off the small tasks, the more you must worry about finding the time to do them. As long you procrastinate, you increase anxiety and stress. You may even become ineffective and inefficient. The longer you wait, the worse it gets. As Harold Taylor wrote, “Whenever you put off today’s tasks, you add to tomorrow’s burdens.”
You know you will have to do it eventually, so why drag out the inevitable. Take action today by scheduling the time needed to get the chore completed. One of the best things you can do for yourself is set aside enough time to complete the small stuff. There is relief when the job is done. The oppressive weight will be lifted from your shoulders. Get into the JUST DO IT NOW habit. Dig right in and enjoy the accomplishment.
3. I don’t have time to do it perfectly!
Perfection tendencies — over-planning, over-organization, over-cleanliness, over-conscientiousness — are significant factors in procrastination. The need for perfect labels on the file folders, pens, and pencils sorted into proper containers, supply closets that are the model of perfection, and boxes of paper separated and lined up evenly, support procrastination tendencies. It is exhausting to contemplate a project when there is a need to complete it perfectly.
This is not what organizing is all about. You are sabotaging a project when you impose standards that have more to do with an idea of perfection than with functional efficiency. Having all the ducks in a perfect row is fine as long as the thought of accomplishing it is not paralyzing. The goal is effectiveness and efficiency, not perfection. Life is not perfect and there are no guarantees. So start the task today by scheduling daily blocks of time to accomplish small steps and a pleasant surprise is in store. Momentum builds upon small successes, not the perfections of life.