Wednesday, April 2, 2008

6 Habits To Avoiding And Overcoming Procrastination

Try to put me in a room
Distraction less
(Everything is everything)
Spare me from worse
In the studio, I would finally burn
(All the time is all you got)
Tempted to work
~Amy Winehouse~

In short procrastination is a habit if you will, a very bad habit, that consists in putting off something for the next day. Procrastination is to blame for most of our productivity problems and yet it seems that very few people actually do something about it. And this doesn’t solely apply to your personal life either, it just as well happens in your career as well, because chances have it you’ll behave the same way at work as well. Missed opportunities, frenzied work hours, stress, overwhelm, resentment, and guilt are just a few consequences.

I’m pretty sure most of you’ve told yourselves at least once in your life I’ll do it tomorrow, I have the time or tomorrow’s another day. Ok, that’s true, but to paraphrase a common proverb, why put put for tomorrow, what you can do today? It’s safe to say that everybody knows that procrastination is hazardous, but what compels people, like you or myself, to do it? There’s a few reasons why people result to postponements like fear of the unknown, fear of change, perfectionism, fear of failure, disorganization and so on, but probably the most common reason is … laziness. That’s right folks laziness can really be a bugger, some go as far as saying it’s a terrible sickness, I personally think it’s all just a psychological issue.

The key to overcoming procrastination is inner strength, inner strength to motivate ourself on completing a task no matter how big or small it is. However most of us lack a particular strength in character and get sucked away from our goals and plans. Do not despair though there are ways to help pass procrastination and eventually get things done.

1. Take It One Step At a Time

Some tasks, at first glance, may seem simply overwhelming or require a Herculean amount of effort, so in term we don’t do anything, at all. It’s important not to let yourself discouraged by any particular amount of work or pressure involved in an activity; what you need to do is start off slow, in small baby steps, in a revere pyramid style and you’ll soon find that things are actually beginning to shape up. For example the other week, I went in with my dad in the garage to clean up the place. There were wrenches, old car oil stench, used car parts, an old refrigerator, a broken TV and a bunch of other useless crap lying all over the place. I didn’t even know where to start from and it all seem like it was gonna take for ever to clean up the mess. My dad soon approached me and told me “there’s no hurry son, there’s no pressure, we’ll just take it one step at a time and see where we get.” We started off with the floor, then with the stocked up drawers and went to more and more difficult task from there on, until around midnight we finally finished. My garage never looked cleaner. This is not only a methodical technique of getting things done, but also a provider or motivation.

2. You Don’t Need To “Have To,” You Need To “Want To”

If you feel like you “have to” do something you’ll automatically feel a sense of restrainment and negativity, that comes naturally when we’re feeling obliged to do something. This leads to some serious procrastination issues and is most encountered at work. The solution here is to shift your mindset from “have to” to “want to.”Be a firm believer that if you don’t want to do something, then you don’t have to. Simple as that. This might of course have some serious consequences, like loosing your job for instance (in the most extreme cases), but if manage to master the art of avoiding unwanted activities, you won’t have any trouble. There are some unpleasant tasks that we can’t avoid, like work for some (I never could understand why some people would choose to make their living in a field of activity they displease), but even then we can avoid procrastination by tricking our brain. You can do this by finding anything remotely pleasant about what you’re about to do, no matter how small and then think about it all the time, while you pursue the respective unpleasant task. This will cheat your brain into thinking you want to do it, not have to.

3. Brainstorm Your Way Out

A common reason for procrastination is lack of ideas, when dealing with any kind of tasks, that mildly requires some creativity. We’ve all had our days of mind blocks or plateaus, it’s actually fairly common, but if this period of blockage is too long, procrastination can settle in. What you need to do is brainstorm. Go outside have a walk and freshen up, observe and analyze everything you see or encounter. Always bring a ben/pencil or a PDA (for those of you more tech savvy) and start taking notes of what you see. Don’t criticize yourself, write down even the most preposterous ideas your mind might produce, you never know when something brilliant might come up.

4. Time Yourself

I’ve found that many people resort to procrastination because they have to much time on their hands and so they put off things for the next hour, day or even weeks. Go to your desk, grab an alarm timer and set it for 10 minutes, 30 minutes or whatever time you believe is necessary to complete your work. Be sure not to leave too much room though, in example this post in normal conditions might take me 2-3 hours to write, I’ve set my timer for 40 minutes. It’s still ticking. This will help you motivate yourself in completing your work, but also most importantly it will help you focus.

5. Eliminate All Other Distractions

This means no IM, TV, no e-mail, no internet whatsoever (unplugging your chord would be a good idea), no music (for those of you that find it distractive, I personally can work fine with music in my headphones) or anything remotely distractive, that might break your concentration. Anything that might come between you and whatever task your trying to fulfill may disrupt your current activities and thus lead to procrastination. It’s better to avoid this by eliminating anything that might cause you to suddenly abandon your work. However, be careful. Don’t over exaggerate with this and lock yourself from the outside world, from your family and people that care for you.

6. Stop Being A Perfectionist

Another cause of procrastination is perfectionism. It’s natural for us humans to try to be the best at something, but sometimes along the path we can tend to over-react with our ambitions and turn to perfectionism. This way we try complete a task flawlessly from the very beginning, but this takes a lot of work, that in term leads to a lot of stress, which in term leads to procrastination. This is because your brain will soon associate that stress with the respective task and will try to avoid it, most often by postponing it.

It’s important to understand that no one and nothing is perfect. It’s actually the imperfections that make the world around us so beautiful and most of all unique. You can try to write the most complete and helpful article ever or build the perfect software all you won’t, but you’ll never succeed, because there’ll always be room for improvement. Realize that an imperfect job completed today is always superior to the perfect job delayed indefinitely.

Original here

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