How to Stop Procrastinating

One word describes why so many do their shopping on the last few days before Christmas – procrastination.

By definition the successful person in life is the one able to make commitments and keep them, accept deadlines and meet them, and accomplish all life requires in a timely manner.

Why do we procrastinate?

I believe that people with low self esteem are trapped in a life that thinks only about themselves and how others evaluate them. Their low self esteem is what prevents them from accomplishing important life tasks and traps them in obscurity. People with a high self-esteem are able to focus on others and are not as worried about what others might think of them. So they are more capable of taking risks on hard tasks, and accomplish more than they may have thought they could.

Problems associated with procrastination is a sign of a low self-esteem, because starting a difficult task may bring failure and failure proves they are inadequate, and their greatest fear is realized.

The fear of failure however is unrealistic (see article on Making Failure Your Friend).

Procrastination seems so silly because it’s not complicated. We usually know what we need to do and when it is needed, but something always seems to get in the way and we run out of time.

After struggling for years with procrastination, winning the battle against it may seem a daunting, even unachievable goal, but anyone can do it.

Here are a few steps you can take that will make overcoming procrastination achievable. Take it step by step, day by day, and you, too, can manage your time efficiently and effectively to accomplish anything.

Step 1: Know Yourself
Take the time to recognize the patterns of your life that keep you in the procrastination cycle. What are the activities you use to distract yourself from getting started? You will probably find that you waste a large portion of your time on meaningless activities, for the sole purpose of procrastinating, instead of getting the task done.

Examples: phone calls you receive or make, hunger pains, sleepiness, a computer game that will take just a couple of minutes (but usually expands to an hour or more) or other tasks which are not necessary. Write these distractions on a Distractions Card and become very familiar with them. Next to each item you've listed, brainstorm how this distraction can be avoided. For example, turn off the ringer on your phone, or beginning a task after, rather than prior, to a meal.

Step 2: Prioritize and Choose
Each day write down all the tasks that need to be done. You will record more than you can accomplish, but nevertheless write them all down. Flag any item that is critical, meaning it cannot be done later, or doing it later will carry negative consequences. Then estimate the time required to complete each item and select the one or two tasks which you commit to accomplishing and schedule it in your calendar or Blackberry.

Step 3: Visualize
Visualize the consequences of procrastinating each task. If you don't study, you might fail a test. If you don't prepare for your presentation, imagine how uncomfortable you'll be with all eyes on you and nothing to say. Then, visualize the positive outcome by getting your work done: a good grade, a promotion, the sense of a job well done. Focus on how good you'll feel after having accomplished your task, rather than on how much you don't want to do it.

Step 4: Prepare
Be sure to have everything you need to accomplish the task before you sit down to do it. Do not allow preparation to cut into the time you actually spend on the work itself. Too often, procrastinators find themselves over-preparing simply to avoid the job. If the task is big and requires several steps think through the steps and schedule each step.

For example in writing this article I had to review other writings about procrastination, clarify my perspective on the issue and outline my thoughts before I could actually write. So I might set aside an hour to scan the web for information about the subject, then fifteen minutes to identify the important aspects of the subject, fifteen more minutes to outline my thoughts, and finally 30 minutes to write the article. The total task should take 2 hours to write.

Also prepare for distractions. Pull out your distraction card and take care of any possible distractions you have listed.

Step 5: Now Do It
The most important part of the whole task is starting on-time.& Plan a reward for starting on-time and consequences for starting late. For example you might penalize yourself 5 minutes of extra work time for every minute you start late. Spending and extra half hour because you started five minutes late is a big incentive to start on-time.

Give yourself a mental pat on the back every time you accomplish a step. In my project of writing this article, I could give myself a pat on the back for starting on time, for completing my search for information on schedule, for outlining my ideas, and finally for writing the article.

When I give myself credit for my accomplishments my self-esteem goes up and I am better able to meet the next challenge. Beware however; people with low self esteem easily ignore their accomplishments and go on to the next step without a thought. Be thoughtful.

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