“The practice of carrying out less urgent tasks in preference to more urgent ones, or doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, and thus putting off impending tasks to a later time, sometimes to the "last minute" before a deadline.” –Google.
In other words: “I’m very busy doing things I don’t need to be doing in order to avoid doing things I actually need to be doing.”
I once worked with a business owner who often used the saying, “The greatest things happen in the eleventh hour,” to justify her massive procrastinating. To give her credit, she did get a lot done during that eleventh hour. However, to the credit of everyone who works the entire clock, the work that is put off until the eleventh hour is commonly not of the highest quality, is laden with errors, and will most likely create the need for more time later to correct, polish, or redo it all together.
It was in my first semester of college I learned a hard lesson about procrastinating. I was a young single mother focused on paying bills and trying to give my son a happy life. Naturally, homework took last priority. I knew the work I was handing in wasn’t my best, especially my English papers. I love to write, and by rushing through the assignments, I knew I was letting myself down. My teacher had no idea she was grading the papers of a creative genius. ;) One of our last assignments was to write a paper where we had to take two opposing views and write as if we were pro that view. It reminded me of something you would do in a debate class. It lit me up. I already knew my subject and went right to work. Because I had the entire week to work on it, the finished result was jaw dropping. Literally, she approached me after she had read it with her mouth on the ground. She couldn’t believe I was the same person who had been turning in the other papers. What she said to me next was earth shattering. She had given an internship with a local magazine to another student who had been turning in pieces of literacy art. She regretted that decision, and wished she had given that opportunity to me. Talk about crushing news. Of course, it wasn’t her fault. I had myself spread so thin that everything in my life was procrastinated. I think that was the first time I realized the importance of not procrastinating. You never know what opportunities await those who do their best work within the first hour.
I’m sure as you’re reading this, you can probably pinpoint one or two things you’re procrastinating right now. Let’s delve into why most people procrastinate and help you break through so that you don’t miss out on any opportunity.
1. Fear is the usual culprit. Fear is debilitating and creates a situation where we shift focus from the project at hand to a set of obstacles and/or distractions. Of course often times we don’t realize what we are doing, and find ourselves victims of overwhelm as our desk and lives get so full and messy, the project magically disappears! So, how easily distracted are you? How often do you feel overwhelmed? I’m betting there’s something you’re trying to make disappear with all of that distraction and overwhelm. What is it? What do you fear upon the completion of it? If you are overwhelmed, try breaking your goal down into smaller steps and just focus on that step before taking the next. Gage your expectations. If you’re expecting too much to get done in an impossible time frame, maybe you need to reassess. When you feel small compared to what you’re trying to accomplish, ask yourself, “What is actually tangible for today?” What is the one thing you can do today to take a step towards completion? And then just do that one thing- increasing your confidence in your ability to get it done.
2. The belief that everything should be last minute. Like the business owner I mentioned, I do believe there is a taught belief that things should be done a certain way- a chaotic way. This is subconscious, but look at the outcomes to your past projects or endeavors. If you are more comfortable doing things last minute and for some reason you need the stress to get you through it, there’s a very unhealthy belief that that is the only way things can get done. Consider bringing peace into your projects instead of anxiety. Imagine the pristine outcome of having all of your “I’s” dotted and “T’s” crossed. Imagine being able to add details, polish, and flare to what you are doing. And imagine the pride you’ll feel when you have really put yourself into the finished product.
3. Feeling unsure. Sometimes we procrastinate because we simply lack the skills or knowledge to complete something. This is a simple fix. What do you need to learn? What do you need to delegate? I’ll give you an example. I owned a health clinic for several years and found myself procrastinating when it came to advertising. Finally, I had a long hard look at it and realized that I was unsure about the bookkeeping and legal stuff so I was procrastinating to keep the business small and manageable. Once I realized that was why I was procrastinating, I hired someone to do it for me. Boom- problem solved and no more procrastination.
4. Feeling unmotivated. It is super hard to follow through with anything you don’t feel excited about. But on the other hand, passion lights a fire that helps you take massive action. What will excite you about this project? What will light your fire? I have a playlist on youtube of motivational videos, and I have my music for days I’m not feeling motivated. Sometimes talking with a friend helps, especially if you know someone who can give you a pep talk. Ask someone to hold you accountable. Post your goal on social media- that’s huge accountability and might be the thing to get you going!
Of course, it’s easy to complete anything when you’re 100% clear about your goals. I know I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my commitment to clarity.
Clarity is powerful; you can live a life of grace and ease when you make powerful decisions based on clarity.
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