Betty W. Phillips, Ph.D., Psychology
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Procrastination?

 

 

PROCRASTINATION?

 

Let's get started. There's something you need to do. But it's too hard, boring, whatever, and you really don't want to do it.  But you know you should do it. You can argue with yourself for a while and then get the great idea that you could put it off until someday soon when you'll feel like doing it. Tell yourself that you really want to do a great job and so you'll need a lot more time. Another wonderful option is just to stop thinking about it and do something that you need to do (e-mail beckons) or something that's more fun (anything). Ignore the nagging feeling that something is wrong and concentrate on developing great excuses to avoid the task or multiple reasons why it's better to put it off. You might even want to blame someone who is pressuring you to start or finish the task. Promise yourself you'll begin the task when you're ready. Remind yourself that you work best under pressure. Enjoy the fun you're having and make sure you can forget about those unpleasant thoughts about the task. Oops! Tomorrow is here. Frantically try to get an extension. Load up on coffee and start the task, swearing at yourself for procrastinating, vowing to never get yourself in this position again. Race the clock, realizing that you don't have time to do the task perfectly, you just need to get it done. Or give up and quit. Why bother?  There is no way to get this done anyway. You can blame the task for being too difficult, too unpleasant, you didn't have enough time, or feel angry and resentful at the person or circumstances causing you to have to work on this task.

 

We all procrastinate at times, but some of us have major problems with procrastination. Procrastination is one of the most direct ways to avoid success! Chronic procrastinators develop stress symptoms and even health problems because procrastination is a form of self-sabotage. Overcoming procrastination will bring more peace of mind, feelings of competence and self-mastery. You'll finally feel in charge of your life! This article will provide some tips to help you get started overcoming procrastination, and an experienced therapist or life coach can also be of assistance.  The best quotation I found about this topic is: "Procrastination is something best put off until tomorrow." (Gerald Vaughn.) Other interesting quotations, authors unknown, are: "Tomorrow is the busiest day of the week."; "Tomorrow will be today tomorrow."; "Someday is not a day of the week."

 

There are many reasons for this problem, but basically procrastination is a learned habit. The relief, or fun or escape from burdensome tasks offered by procrastination actually reinforces the habit. Learned habits can be unlearned. Just remember that you can't procrastinate unlearning procrastination!  I will take a minute here to mention a few major causes of procrastination. Procrastination is often experienced as part of an attention deficit disorder. Other major reasons or contributors to procrastination are perfectionism or passive-aggressive resistance to authority.  These issues must be dealt with in addition to procrastination.

 

In the rest of this article I'll describe a few ways to overcome procrastination. First, let's realize that we seldom procrastinate activities that we think are fun or exciting. We put off tasks that we feel will be dull, boring or time consuming.  In that light, begin to think about how you can make the activity  fun!  Music is a great motivator. You can also use activating hemi-sync CDs to more fully engage your brain in the task (as described in several articles on my website.)  Do something silly to make the task more interesting or break the task up into little challenges to race yourself to the finish line. Make up some jokes about the task and see if you could find some way to laugh. If you need thinking time for the task you can run around the block while you think.  Eat or drink something you like, write in different colored pens or pencils, move around from place to place as you work on the task, whatever will stimulate your interest level. A word to the wise, however. Don't make the diversions so interesting that you end up having fun off-task.

 

Two more ideas are to break up the task into smaller components and reinforce yourself when you finish each part.  When a task will be time-consuming, it's much simpler and more motivating to start and finish shorter sub-tasks. You'll find yourself more willing to do the simpler task and will feel successful as each part is completed.  It's also important to follow the principle of deferred rewards. Procrastinators reward themselves with escapist activities while they are avoiding the task. It's far better to schedule your positive activities after you finished work segments. When you break the task down into smaller parts, you'll be able to reward yourself more frequently!

 

Good enough is good enough.  Anyone can make mistakes and anything can be nit-picked. Remember if you are a perfectionist, you are likely to be much more critical of yourself then others are of you. When perfectionism leads to procrastination, you run the risk of not having enough time to meet even the good enough standard. 

 

Just do it. You can start anywhere in the task, usually the easiest or most pleasant part of the task, which will then motivate you to finish. The opposite approach is sometimes useful also, to get through the part you dread, so that the rest of the task will be easier or more pleasurable.

 

Take a social approach.  If you announce your schedule or deadline to others, you will be more likely to keep your commitment. Another approach is to work with someone else.  Possibly the task can be shared. If you must finish the task yourself, you can schedule yourself to work alongside someone who is industrious and work oriented.

 

Readers of my articles will know that I usually finish with a joke. Well I must confess I've been spending hours trying to find the perfect procrastination joke. The result of my labor is:

                                                ******** Coming Soon*********