Overcoming Procrastination In Your
© 2000 Elena Fawkner
Well, it's Saturday again and time to publish another edition of A Home-Based
Business Online. It's also, I realize, time to write an article for
this week's issue. Seven days have elapsed since the publication of the
last edition of this newsletter. Why, you may ask, did I wait until
NOW to write this week's article? Good question. I'd like to
say it's because I didn't have a minute to spare during the week.
But that just isn't so. I COULD have written this article three days
ago, but I didn't. Not because I didn't have the time ... but because
I CHOSE NOT TO. And boy, do I regret it. It's a beautiful sunny
day outside right now and I could be out there reading some more of Patricia
Cornwall's Dr Kate Scarpetta. Instead, here I am sitting in front
of my computer.
What's going on here? In a word ... PROCRASTINATION. Now,
mind you, I decided last week I would be writing about procrastination
this week and so I have done some research. Just as well, you might say.
When I think of the time I spend
procrastinating by, say, reading and responding to email as it comes in
rather than allowing it to accumulate and dealing with it in one or two
sessions during the day, or making a telephone call or making YET ANOTHER
cup of coffee rather than knuckling down and writing an article or updating
my web pages or whatever it is that I SHOULD be doing, I have to admit
that I am costing my business time and money.
What about you? Do you ever find yourself putting off some task
rather than dealing with it at the right time? Does the need to rearrange
the pantry cupboard or the tools in garage seem much more pressing in the
face of some task that you really can't bring yourself to start?
If so, like me,you're falling into the procrastination trap.
So, why does it happen and what can we do about it?
According to one study, procrastination is caused by several"cognitive
distortions" or, in other words, perception problems. These are (in
the words of the study author):
1. an overestimation of the time left to perform tasks;
2. an underestimation of the time required to complete
3. an overestimation of future motivational states;
4. misreliance on the necessity of emotional congruence to succeed
at the task; and
5. belief that working when not in the mood to work is suboptimal.
Or, in our language:
1. "I've got plenty of time to write my article. It's not
due until the weekend." Right. Well it's the weekend now isn't
it, and I STILL didn't do it.
2. "(On Friday) I don't really need to start it until Saturday.
It'll only take 15 minutes." Yeah. Right again. It's
been half an hour already and I'm only halfway through the first draft!
3. "I'll do it later in the week. I'll feel more like it
then. I really don't feel like it right now." Since it's the
weekend as I write this, I guess inspiration didn't rain on down after
4. "I can't do a good job if I'm just not in the mood." Yeah,
5. "I don't feel like doing it now and I shouldn't because, in
this mood, I won't do a good job." Oh, please.
WHAT a pathetic bunch of excuses! Time to stop procrastinating
and take action. Here are some action change steps from "Overcoming
Procrastination: A New Look" (link below):
1. Start with clear, measurable, achievable goals. For example,
I am going to spend 15 minutes each day next week from Monday through Friday
writing the first draft of next week's article.
2. Break the task down into bite-size pieces. On Monday
I will write the introduction, on Tuesday the first paragraph, on Wednesday
the third paragraph etc.
3. Commit five minutes to getting started then DO IT! At
the end of five minutes, decide whether to commit to a further five minutes,
and so on. This is an excellent way to break inertia. Try it.
I did, and 5 minutes turned into and hour and a half and a completed article!
4. Get organized. Create three files: (1) catch-up; (2)
keep-up and (3) get-ahead. Put the long overdue activities you want
to finish in the catch-up file and set aside time each day to work at the
items in this file, checking them off as you go. In the keep-up file,
emphasize completing priority tasks as they arise. In the get-ahead
file, schedule time to initiate steps to advance your personal interests.
These steps may be planning or activities.
5. Negotiate with yourself. When you are tempted to substitute
a low priority activity (such as watching TV) for a priority project, make
watching TV contingent upon doing part or all of the priority activity
first. Then watching TV will be an enjoyable reward, rather than
Procrastination is unproductive and can even be harmful to your best
interests if taken to extremes. It is not just a simple act of putting
off until tomorrow what you could get done today. Studies show that
procrastination is a symptom of self-doubt, self downing, discomfort-dodging
and irrational guilt. In turn, the results of procrastination can
be a further stimulus for the erroneous beliefs that led to procrastination
in the first place.
So, break the habit of deferring action until a "better" time.
There is no such thing. If something needs to be done, cut the excuses
and JUST DO IT!
Elena Fawkner is editor of A Home-Based Business Online practical ideas,
resources and strategies for your home-based or online business. http://www.ahbbo.com