Who of you finds yourself desperately wanting to slay that procrastination beast of yours, but keeps putting it off until tomorrow?
You vow to “get it done now”, and do alright for a few days, but then find yourself slipping back into the old habits of putting off for tomorrow what you just can’t seem to get started on today.
Here’s what qualifies me to write on procrastination:
Age 6: I stared out of my first grade window, daydreaming, and just couldn’t seem to get my work completed. I’m amazed at those other kids who seem to just whip through it all in no time flat.
Age 8: Third grade teacher put me on a strict regimen of positive reinforcement: finish my class work and get a candy.
Age 17: Health class behavior modification project: I tasked myself to explore my procrastination habits, mark down in a log book when I engage in procrastination and then write a paper about it. Started ok, and then pushed the logging of incidents to the end of the day, then every other day, then 1x per week, and then in a final cram just prior to writing the paper. (At least the teacher thought the project was hilarious.)
Latter years of college: Juggling 2 jobs, and internship, and class work. No time to procrastinate and I end up getting better grades.
– skip 10 years –
Past 4 years: Volunteering as a community coordinator. Data reports are habitually late, since gathering the information is a bear.
This morning: Dropped the kid off at daycare. Made a batch of granola for the week and tried to come up with a blog post topic. Had breakfast and started Poland by James Michener. Initiated and replied to a couple of communications that I’d been putting off. Watered the tomatoes on the porch. Realized I’m procrastinating. Now THAT’s a topic folks can related to. And thus this post…
So I’m sure there are tons of studies and lots of information on procrastination. (You can google those on your own time.) What follows rather are a few points which I find are critical for hacking through the procrastination and getting done what needs doing – especially when it’s something more complex than what can be achieved in one sitting. In other words, if the goal is too daunting, if there’s too much one is trying to get done at a time, then nothing gets done, or only the easiest things are attempted, in lieu of those which are truly critical to the mission.
1. Be clear about what you want. If you’ve ever written a grant proposal, you’ll know the painstaking detail that needs to go into it if you want it to be accepted. The same level of clarity has to go into your personal life goals and your professional goals. Sure, an idea can start on a coffee stained diner napkin, but you’ve got to seriously flesh it out to know precisely what you want and how you’re going to get there. See SMART goals or OKR. Simplicity is good, but it’s got to be clear.
I’ve recently been talking with a bunch of folks in the nonprofit and education sectors and I have to be honest: very few knew exactly what they wanted. We can complain about what we don’t like. We can be general about what we’d like to have, in a fanciful way. But when it comes to being clear about a goal, and knowing what we specifically need to get there, we’re a complete mess. And then we procrastinate, never really getting started with that which will truly benefit us.
So see who you need to be, see what you need to achieve, make a plan to get there and then take initiative and start. Again, be explicit. Set clear milestones. Break them down into actionable chunks and get started on it now.
2. Be persistent. Nothing will be achieved if you quit before the end, (apart acquiring a reputation for half-baked projects). For some people, this comes more naturally than for others. We may actually start the project, but find ourselves procrastinating on some of the less clear or pleasant tasks along the way. I believe however that persistence can be nurtured. You GOTTA be persistent. When the going gets tough, it’s just a sign of something that needs to be addressed, or it builds strength, or it shows where the answer isn’t. Be persistent and you’ll nail your goal.
3. Be driven. It’s hard to be persistent if there’s no motivating drive. This calls into question everything you’re then doing. If you have a burning desire for it, it’s easier to keep at it because you KNOW the outcome is worth working towards. You need to begin finding that which you desire and moving towards it. Time is moving along whether you find it or not. It’s best to proactively get that desire and quit wasting time.
Bonus: Each time you cut through the procrastination and actually complete one of the tasks that moves you closer to your goal, give yourself a high-five. I physically smack the air above me with a verbal “yeah!” It may not be the candy motivator from my days in third-grade, but it has helped me keep the kitchen a bit cleaner, run when I’m not feeling the motivation, and get this blog post done! “YEAH!”
How do you slay the procrastination beast?