Beat Procrastination With Two Simple Steps

Did you know that there is a creed for procrastinators? I found it while I was putting off writing this speech. Here are what I consider to be the top five statements of faith for procrastinators.

I shall never move quickly, except to avoid more work or find excuses.
I will never rush into a job without a lifetime of consideration.
I obey the law of inverse excuses which demands that the greater the task to be done, the more insignificant the work that must be done prior to beginning the greater task.
I know that the work cycle is not plan/start/finish, but is wait/plan/plan.
I shall always begin, start, initiate, take the first step, and/or write the first word, when I get around to it.

Do you identify with any of these statements? If you do, friends, there is hope for you. Today we will look at how we procrastinate and then we will discover two simple things we can do to overcome the temptation to delay whenever it occurs.

The first thing we do when we’re faced with a daunting project is we make irrational choices. If you find yourself overestimating the time it will take to finish and underestimating the work required to complete that project, you are procrastinating. If you believe you’ll be more motivated later, you are procrastinating. If you wait until the right mood hits you to start, you are procrastinating.

The second thing that leads to procrastination is perfectionism. It’s traits are all or nothing thinking, fear of making mistakes, or the fear of letting someone down. When you’re a perfectionist, you’re happy as long as you get it right. So you don’t take what you believe are unnecessary risks. That way, your perfect record remains intact.

The third reason we procrastinate is that we just aren’t that organized. We look at the big project and we feel like ants facing Goliath. And if his shoe drops, we’re dead.

Put all these causes together and you’ll see a common theme. Life is tough!

With all the technology we have today, there are as many ways to waste time as there are minutes in every day. You could play the addicting games app for a few minutes. But those minutes can quickly turn to hours. A study done in 2010 by the NPD revealed that the average gamer spends 13 hours a week playing. This is not just kids playing. The average age of the gamer was 32. Extreme gamers reported playing 40-48 hours every week. That’s a full-time job – with overtime!

Now that we know some ways that we procrastinate – misjudging what’s required, perfectionism, or disorganization – we can apply two simple steps to overcome it.

The first step is to believe you can succeed.

Fear of tackling a project is like driving into a rainstorm without turning on your windshield wipers. You can’t see what’s ahead, so you figure the best thing to do is just pull off the road and wait until the last raindrop falls. And you might as well wait for the traffic to lighten up too. You wouldn’t want a car to hit you as you get back on the road. Once the roads are good and dry, then you can go. After all, you might hydroplane on that slick pavement and you haven’t gotten around to buying new tires. Maybe if you just wait until the sky clears up, the roads will stay dry for you.

If you wait for every external condition to be favorable, you might as well lock your car in the garage.

Zig Ziglar said that life is tough, but if you’re tough on yourself, life will be easier on you.

Here are three things to remember to help you believe you can succeed.

First, your situation is not hopeless. Few situations are. Storms may come, but they pass just like sands in an hourglass. There’s always the past to look forward to!

Second, you won’t be more motivated later than you are now. The most prolific writers sit down to write very day. Sometimes they just put the pencil to the paper and start writing anything. After mechanically going through the motions of writing, the creative juices start to flow. Jack London, author of Call of the Wild said, “You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.”

Thirdly, you won’t work better under pressure. Here’s an extreme example from my own life. I was confronted at work one night by a masked gunman. I had the days receipts in my hand and he made it quite clear that he wanted the cash. He insisted relentlessly that I open the safe, calling me ugly names I won’t repeat. Try as I would to open that safe, his constant urging kept me from getting it open fast enough. In frustration, I finally turned around, not caring if he shot me, and said, “Listen, if you want me to open this thing, you’re going to have to shut up!”

He did. With the pressure reduced, I gave him what he wanted.

The second step is to get organized and take action now.

There are three ways to do it.

First, work backwards. That’s right. Look at the finished project. Then work backwards to discover the task required to get there.

Second, divide the big task into smaller ones. You don’t chop down a redwood with one swing of the axe. It takes lots of swings. Once you’ve chipped away enough, the tree will fall. If you do a little every day, eventually you’ll accomplish a lot.

Third, keep records of your progress. Accomplishment brings confidence. Confidence leads to better performance, which leads to more accomplishment. And in this economy, if you develop the reputation of being someone who gets things done, you’ll keep your job when other procrastinators lose theirs.

Now you have two simple steps to beat procrastination. Believe you can succeed and you will do the things you need to do to succeed.

So what are you waiting for?