Q: Michael, I am a serious procrastinator. It never fails. I always have things to do and I will always do something else instead which leaves me rushing and feeling out of control. I am not sure why I do it or what I can do to stop it. Any advice? Amy M., Nashville, TN
A: Amy, we are all guilty of procrastinating at some point in our lives. As I do not know your daily habits or reasons behind your procrastinating, I cannot speak to the why. I can, however, offer some advice on how to stop procrastinating. The good news is that you can stop procrastination, should you so choose. Here are some strategies:
Admitting is the first step. The vast majority of those who procrastinate do it by finding something else to focus on, rather than paying attention to the task at hand. For example, you may have a deadline at work but distract yourself by surfing the internet instead of working on the task at hand. If you can acknowledge that you purposely look for distractions to avoid what needs to be done, you will be in a much better place to stop the action.
Think about how you’ll feel when you complete the task. What will be different when you’ve completed the thing you’ve been avoiding? If nothing else, won’t you feel relieved when the task is finally done? Allow these thoughts to motivate you to take action.
Consider how you’ll feel when the job isn’t finished. If you continue to procrastinate, how will you feel about it? Use those negative feelings as motivation to get the job done now.
Stop making excuses. Many of us do a poor job of convincing ourselves that if we wait until the last minute we will do a better job. My old adage used to be, “I work well under pressure.” What I found to be true in my own life is that may be true but the stress I caused myself was never really worth it. What excuses do you tell yourself? Recognize those excuses for what they are – empty excuses which contribute to your procrastination.
Take the first step! Rather than talking about doing the task at hand, just take action. Instead of spending your precious time and energy thinking about or avoiding, just do it as Nike says!
Set goals! What needs to be done and when? Take time to write out your plan and include deadlines for yourself. If the task is a large one, you can break it down into smaller tasks so it is not so overwhelming. Be realistic about what you can do and how long it will take you to get it done.
Reward your success! When you have completed a milestone or project, reward yourself. By doing so, you will reinforce the good behavior of getting the task done.
Banish Guilt! Guilt has a way of holding us back or keeping us stuck. If you miss a milestone or do not get something done, do not punish yourself. Again, you are wasting precious energy and time that could be used for your greater good. Take it easy on yourself!
Procrastination is something that plagues all of us at some point in our lives. The good news is you have the power to change by taking action. Likely, you will feel less stressed and accomplished if you start today working on those items you need to get done.
If you have a question that you would like me to answer, please email me. Each week, I will select a question and respond accordingly.
Michael Brian, Ph.D. is a Holistic Life Coach who is passionate about helping people create sustainable changes in their lives. You can also find him on Facebook here. His website is www.harmonyawaits.com.