Procrastination

The Dictionary definition of PROCRASTINATION is avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished. Sometimes, procrastination takes place until the “last minute” before a deadline.  I like the next 3 definitions of procrastination:

 

“Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.” — Don Marquis, Author and Journalist

“Procrastination is like a credit card; it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.” — Christopher Parker, Professor

“Procrastination makes easy things hard and hard things harder.” — Mason Cooley, College Professor, and Aphorist (a terse saying embodying a general truth, or astute observation)

 

How to Overcome Procrastination:  When I prepare a Life Lesson, I read and collect numerous articles and materials on the subject. A good portion of this Life Lesson contains ideas and excerpts from 3 different articles that appeared in Psychology Today and were written by three different psychologists: Melanie Greenberg Ph.D.,  Elizabeth Lombardo Ph.D., and Sharam Heshmat Ph.D.

Set Priorities and Define the Specific Goal:  What is the most important goal you want to accomplish?  The more specific the goal, the better able for you to reach that goal. Dr. Sharam Heshmat said: “A highly abstract goal may not be actionable (e.g. to get healthy). For example, instead of pursuing the goal of ‘being healthy’, a person may adopt the goal of ‘walking at least 30 minutes every day’, which is more concrete and easier to monitor.  It is easier to postpone vague open-ended tasks with distant deadlines than focused and short-term projects.”

Divide and Conquer the Goal:  Lao Tzu, the Chinese Philosopher said: “A journey of 1000 steps must begin with a single step”.  Therefore, cut the larger goal into smaller pieces. For example:  I want to run in a 5k race. I start my training by running 1k, 5 days the first week. The next week I run 1.5k, 5 days a week.  I then run 2k, 5 days during the next week, etc, until you get to your goal. Yes, it might take you 2 months to get to running a 5k, but by increasing your stamina every week, and taking a new smaller step each week, you were able to reach your goal.

Disengage from Impractical Goals:  Dr. Heshmat says effective self-control requires disengaging from goals when progress is too slow.   People who disengage from seemingly impossible goals are mentally healthier than those who stay entrapped.  Dropping the frustrating goals allows you to use one’s limited effort and time more effectively.

Be Realistic About What You Can Accomplish:  Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D. says: “If you’re like most people, you’re likely to overestimate what you can get done. You may forget that you’re less productive when you’re tired, that you’re bound to be interrupted, or that you may encounter issues along the way (like a printer jam) that sidetrack your time and attention.”  She further suggests: “Take your initial estimate of how long it will take you to get a task done and then increase it by at least 25 percent to begin with. See how this works and adjust it up or down as needed.”

Try to Limit Interruptions:  Greenberg suggests: “Limiting how often you get interrupted is key to getting things done…Texts or emails may keep pinging on your phone. Or the dog may start a cacophony of barking because the UPS truck just pulled up. You can’t avoid interruptions altogether, but you can do some things to limit them.  Wear earphones, close your office door (if you can), set your computer not to ping with each e-mail or turn off the sound on your phone. Make sure the kids are entertained during the time you plan or delegate someone to watch them. If you can’t get work done at home, leave the house and work in a library or quiet coffee shop”.

Focus on the Why:  Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo says: “Procrastinators focus more on short-term gains (avoiding the distress associated with the task), as opposed to long-term results (the stress of not doing it, as well as the consequences of avoiding this task). Instead, try focusing on why you are doing this task:  What are the benefits of completing it? If you’ve been putting off cleaning out a closet, imagine walking into the closet when it is decluttered and how good that will feel. And consider how much money you will make by selling the items on eBay, or how those in need will feel when they receive these items as donations.”

Set Up an Appointment With Yourself:   Dr. Lombardo says: “Projects that will get done ‘when I have time’ (as in ‘I will do it when I have time’) tend not to get done very often, if ever.  You need to schedule when you are going to work on a project and block that time, as you would an important meeting. And when it comes to doing your work, set a timer so you can be focused for the entire allotted time.

 

Life Lesson:  Filmmaker James Cameron said: “Don’t put limitations on yourself. Other people will do that for you.”  I will add to that:  Don’t procrastinate, that is something you do to yourself.

 

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