1 September 2011

The Procrastination Tightrope And How To Keep Your Balance

Want to beat procrastination? Here’s some easy tips you can apply right now!

Have deadlines for your goals. Beware, however, of being unrealistic. Working towards impossible deadlines is very de- motivating and won’t help you break the procrastination habit. Break a task down to smaller, bite-sized pieces with realistic achievable time-lines. This can often help to get you started, and builds your belief that you can achieve something.

Don’t just work on the plan, however, or it becomes another form of procrastination. (Making a list is definitely no substitute for action!). Set target dates on each specific action. Build momentum into your expectations by planning to achieve a little more each time you work on the project.

Before you start each time, overview what you did the day before. Improvement comes from continuous review. Also, you will quickly realise if you’re trying to achieve too much too quickly. Be prepared to take longer if necessary. Many people give up on goal-setting because they miss deadlines – every goal-setter has missed some! Don’t give up. Just re-schedule the time or increase the activity rate – and keep going.

Be clear about what you want to achieve. The best goals have a clearly defined outcome.

Beware of just doing maintenance work when you have a big project you want to complete. For instance, you may want to create a new garden while still keeping the rest of your section or yard tidy. The temptation is to do a general tidy-up first, because you’ll get a quick result. If you do, it’s very likely you’ll never get started on the big project because of interruptions. There is enormous satisfaction to be had if you can be self-determined enough to say ‘no’ to the easy task, hurdle over it, and jump straight into the big task. Your self-esteem is enlarged because you’ve been strong-willed enough to make bold time choices, and the sense of forward momentum more than compensates for the short-term disorder you have to live with because you haven’t done the easy ‘under-your-nose’ jobs.

There are parallel situations in business. Alarm bells ring when I hear someone say ‘I’m just going to tidy up my desk before I start on that big task’. I can almost guarantee that they’re procrastinating because they’re afraid (for one reason or another) of starting the big project. Develop the habit of moving forward on activities that will in the long-term make a permanent difference. For example, if you are a salesperson with a messy desk, push the mess to one side so it doesn’t distract you and spend half-an-hour first doing five prospecting calls. Then go back to the easy ‘stuff’.

KEY POINT Don’t focus on the immediate at the expense of the permanent.


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