When Ernest Hemingway was asked how to write a novel he replied: “First you defrost the refrigerator.” As a child I always knew when my mother was trying to avoid doing something – she started tidying her office.
These days how do I know when I’m procrastinating? It’s very simple. Oh, I’ll just go and make a cup of tea first…. then I need to drink it…. then I’ll just check my email…. then I’ll just call so and so…. then I’ll just go and see if we have any post…. now I’ll just go and pop that load of washing in the machine…. better check my email again…. oh, now I need another cup of tea…. And so the cycle continues until whatever it is bugs me enough that I just have to get whatever it is over with and out the way.
Nobody, and I mean nobody, is immune to procrastination. It creeps in when you’re not looking or when you’re least expecting. It affects our productivity, it affects our psyche, it can affect our relationships and it frequently stops us achieving our goals and our desired outcomes.
Perhaps you procrastinate as you have too much to do, you dodge things you don’t like doing, you fear drudgery or boredom, or perhaps you even fear the difficulty of the task you’re avoiding. Some people even fear the success of getting done, whatever it is you need to do, as that will create even more work!
But it’s NOT the case, as many people suggest, that you should find out WHY you procrastinate. Why, why, why should you? What the heck should we care about the “why”? You just want to stop doing it right? It’s about breaking the cycle and getting yourself unstuck from the mud of procrastination. So let’s get on with it:
#1. BREAK IT DOWN AND SET DEADLINES – kick yourself in to action by breaking the big task into smaller pieces. Make sure that first step is well-defined, achievable, realistic, time-limited and you can get moving and succeed with that first step, right now. Check out how to test the fitness of your goals in Fitness Testing for Powerful Goals.
We all say ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’, so make sure if you are going to make it tomorrow, that it gets done tomorrow, rather than being put off to yet another tomorrow. Get a flying start to the day – the evening before write down the top three things you want to get done the next morning – be that at home or work. Put the note in a place you’ll see it as soon as you get up or get to work. When you start the day focus only on getting those 3 things done before you start anything else. Do NOT look at your email. You’ll be amazing how productive you’ll be in that first hour.
#2. BUMP UP THE REWARD – whether it’s a reward you want – a biscuit with that cup of tea is always nice – or whether a big stick works better – they’ll be no cups of tea for you the rest of the day if you don’t get this done. Bump it up. Make that reward or that baseball bat bigger. Bolder. More vivid.
#3. COMMIT JUST A FEW MINUTES – start the task for just a few minutes……go on, just a few minutes….. Psychology research shows that this is a highly effective way to beat procrastination. If you can at least start a task then you have far more chance of completing it. A few minutes of initial activity creates a connection with your unconscious mind and it will then refuse to rest until the job is finished. It’s almost a kind of psychic anxiety that nags away until you finish the task and you’ll feel a surge to see it through to the end.
#4. SHOUT ABOUT IT – well, perhaps not literally. Unless that’s the trick to getting you unstuck from procrastinating! get out there and tell someone what it is you need to get done. Studies have shown that less than 10% of people keep their New Year resolutions, but get them to tell someone about it and that success rate soars.
#5. AVOID LABELS – labels tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies. Say “I’m a procrastinator” or “I’m never productive on a Monday morning” and what do you do? So avoid labels and putting yourself, or others for that matter, in a box. Don’t say “It’s outside my control” – that’s just a big, red, flashing excuses alert.
Remember the 10th commandment according to GATEHOUSE : “Thou shalt not put things off, as that takes more time and energy than just getting them done in the first place!”
How do you get yourself out of procrastinating?
© Jacqui Gatehouse and GATEHOUSE THIRTEEN, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jacqui Gatehouse and GATEHOUSE THIRTEEN with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.