Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?
As a professional procrastinator I know this thought quite well. I always wondered why I would put myself through the stress of waiting right until I had just enough time to sit my butt down and power through a task.
I spent many sleepless nights in chiropractic school up studying until the minute I left to take my test the next morning. During the night I would set my alarm for a 30 minute cat nap and then get up and continue studying. Pure craziness! Why would I continue to put myself through this over and over again?!
As I was packing for my vacation to Mexico last weekend, I was listening to an audiobook that mentioned that procrastination was caused by indecisiveness. Did I mention that I was scrambling to pack my suitcase the night of our flight?
Procrastination being caused by indecisiveness is truly a liberating thought and one that makes the idea of ending this habit more manageable. Gaining insight on the reasons behind our current habits, whether it is our emotional eating, procrastination, lateness, etc. can make the process of changing that habit much easier.
So, back to my packing. I always pack at the last minute. And now I know that it is because I am being indecisive about what to bring with me on my trip. It really doesn’t matter when I pack my bag, I am still going to have to make the same tough decision about how many pairs of shoes I really need to go with the outfits I bring along. That decision won’t get easier as my trip gets closer. I am not going to lie and say that this realization will magically end my procrastination habit, but I am feeling clear on the steps I will take to avoid the last minute hustle and stress in the future.
5 tips for kissing procrastination goodbye
1. Let go of perfection– We all know that there is no such thing as perfect, yet many of us still find ourselves striving for it. This may look like putting off making a decision for fear of making the wrong one. Or waiting to start a project because we are afraid of not doing it well enough. If you feel that you don’t have enough information to make a decision or work on a project, get what you need and then get going. Done is better than perfect!
2. Schedule your tasks– When you have something you need to get done, schedule it into your calendar. Estimate how much time you will need and designate the appropriate amount of time into your schedule. If something comes up and you need this time for another task, make sure that you reschedule it into your calendar for another time-preferable the same day or ASAP. By making a schedule and sticking to it, you become the master of your own time.
3. Set your own deadlines– When we don’t set a deadline for ourselves, then either we rely on the deadline set by someone else or the task never gets done. Setting deadlines for yourself and sticking to them is a great way to get yourself motivated to finish things by a certain date. Deadlines motivate us to hustle and use our time more effectively. Most of us procrastinators know this well. Nothing like a quickly approaching deadline to light a fire under our buns and get us moving. By setting our own deadlines, we avoid the stress of the last minute rush to finish something before it is officially due.
4. Say goodbye to multitasking– Social media is the procrastinator’s worst enemy…or best friend, depending on how you want to look at it. Much of the work we do is on the computer, which leaves us vulnerable to frequently checking email, facebook, instagram, pinterest, twitter, etc. Our cell phone also provides another source of endless procrastination tactics. This comes back to mindfulness and giving the task at hand our full attention.
When we give our full concentration to whatever it is that we are working on, the process is more enjoyable and gets done faster. On the other hand, if we are working on something and thinking about all the other things we could be doing or constantly stopping to check email and facebook, the task becomes a chore and much more laborious.
One method that I have found helpful when tackling bigger projects is the Pomodoro Technique, which is a time management method. It works by breaking down work intervals into 25 minutes with a 5-minute break in between. After 4 25-minute work sessions, you take a longer (15-30 minute) break. Breaking up your work sessions into smaller intervals is much less intimidating and more fun.
5. Start before you are ready– If you are waiting to feel ready to start something or to have a sudden spurt of motivation to get going, you may be waiting forever. Tell yourself that all you have to do is one Pomodoro (25 minutes) and then you can stop. Usually getting started is the hardest part.
As a business owner, it has been essential for me to get a handle on my procrastination. I set my own schedule and deadlines and thus must take control or nothing would ever get done. I also find that when it comes to emotional eating or changing our habits around our health and happiness that procrastination comes into play and that we allow our excuses for why now is not a good time to start making changes get in the way.
It all comes back to indecision.
Make the decision to change. And then make the decision to start. And keep going.
Remember that done is better than perfect!
Are you a procrastinator? Have you been able to break this habit? I would love to hear what you find helpful in the comments below.