Monday, May 23, 2011
Everyone procrastinates. Even Nobel Prize winners procrastinate – mostly small stuff, like fixing things around the house, or saving that document on the PC before taking an important call. Procrastination can become a habit that affects our whole life, causing a whole lot of stress and lost opportunities as we struggle to catch up.
Procrastination is caused by hyperbolic discounting. We make good choices when we’re thinking about the future. Unfortunately, we let short term issues overwhelm them in the present.
Procrastinators also tend to mix up what’s urgent with what is important! They are easily distracted when something else comes up. We simply forget stuff very often. We can deal with that by making daily “to do” lists. We must include even small items, and check them off as we go along.
Procrastinators are often perfectionists; they won’t start on something unless they feel they can do it perfectly. They tend to chunk tasks into something so big and scary – it cannot be tackled! De-chunking a task into 15 minutes pieces will get past that hurdle – like if we are putting off filling in an awful form, we can start by filling just one easy section.
We can also persuade ourselves to spend just five minutes on the task, and then asses what we’ve done. Can we do another five minutes? Yes we can – just do it! Before you know it, the momentum of the task is carrying you forward on its own!
We tend to put off anything unpleasant. We carry on in an unhappy relationship because we can’t face the prospect of ending it. Or we are afraid of failure – so we put off asking someone out because they might say no.
Resolving this issue starts with dealing with the fear itself. All successful people fail a lot, but they learn from their failures and go on to succeed. So expect the NOs and think positively – you only need one person to say “Yes!”
Sometimes procrastination comes from thinking that something is easy, so it is okay to start tomorrow. But often something else comes up, and we end up rushing at the last minute! Or we could have an opportunity in our grasp, only to have it slip through our fingers!
For instance, our passport needs renewing and we keep putting it off – after all, it will only take a day or two. But imagine we are suddenly asked to go abroad for work, and how foolish we’ll feel if our passport has expired!
The “action illusion” is another great way to avoid doing things. Some people spend hours writing a revision timetable instead of actually revising. The key is to decide what tasks actually matter, and then only do those.
Procrastinating seems to be part of human nature, but it’s worth learning not to. We must act now – we can do what has to be done now! This results in a whole new approach to life – we become more proactive, confident, less stressed, and with a lot of more free time for self-growth.
Posted by Kennedy Odhiambo at 7:53 PM