My intention was to have my May Power Byte be on Personal Mission Statements. But, something came up. Then something else came up. I kept putting off beginning to write.
It became pretty clear that when it came to my May Power Byte, I was procrastinating. What better subject to examine this month than procrastination!
I figure if I do it, there's a good chance you have, at least at some time or other, if not habitually, done the very same thing. By the way, If you Google procrastination you'll find 4,160,000 entries. Get this!!!! If I really want to avoid getting on with writing this Power Byte, I can say I'm doing research on the subject and check out all that is being said about procrastination. That ought to stall things for a long time, and I can tell myself that I'm working on my Power Byte.
To begin with, here's the definition of Procrastination: Defer Action. Amazing!! That's all that's in the Concise Oxford Dictionary, which has 1454 small print pages in total.
Here's what Ellen DeGeneres has to say about it. Does it sound familiar?
Wikipedia has more to say. Procrastination is a behavior which is characterized by deferment of actions or tasks to a later time. Psychologists often cite procrastination as a mechanism for coping with the anxiety associated with starting or completing any task or decision. For a behavior to be classified as procrastination, it must be counterproductive, needless, and delaying.
Okay, now we're getting somewhere. Maybe I have a little anxiety about the Power Bytes. Surely I'm delaying. Not sure if it's counterproductive though.
Procrastination may result in stress, a sense of guilt, the loss of personal productivity, the creation of crisis and the disapproval of others for not fulfilling responsibilities or commitments. These combined feelings can promote further procrastination.
I admit it - I definitely feel guilty for finding all kinds of things to do before getting on with what "must" be done.
It's quite amusing actually. After speaking to hundreds of people about it, most have some experience with putting things off. Why do we do it? What can be done about it? and more importantly, is your procrastination costing you anything?
Two of the world's leading experts on procrastination: Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago, and Timothy Pychyl, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada said:
1. Twenty percent of people identify themselves as chronic procrastinators. For them procrastination is a lifestyle. They don't pay bills on time. They miss opportunities for buying tickets to concerts. They don't cash gift certificates or checks. They file income tax returns late. They leave their Christmas shopping until Christmas Eve.
2. There may be more of it in the U.S. than in other countries because we are so nice; we don't call people on their excuses even when we don't believe them.
3. Procrastinators are not different in their ability to estimate time.
4. Procrastinators are made not born..
5. Procrastinators tell lies to themselves. Such as, "I'll feel more like doing this tomorrow." Or "I work best under pressure."
6. Procrastinators actively look for distractions, particularly ones that don't take a lot of commitment on their part. Checking e-mail is almost perfect for this purpose.
7. There can be big costs associated with procrastination. Health is one. The stress that accompanies it can seriously impact your body. Money is another. Try missing a credit card payment and see how dramatically your interest rate increases, not to mention the late fee penalty. What about the relationships that are permanently damaged?
I believe that procrastinators can change their behavior - but it's not easy.
- First change your point of view about "being" a procrastinator. (Thoughts become things.)
- Visualize the outcome of getting something done - and make sure that outcome is a compelling one. What's in it for you if you get it done and get it done early or on time?
- Create a future that's compelling enough to call for a change in habits.
- Get clear about the legacy you want to leave behind.
What is it you want people to be saying about you when you're no longer here? I doubt you're hoping they'll say, "He/She never got things done on time and it cost him/her big time." If you don't want that to be your legacy, then change your point of view (change your thoughts) and change your actions.
Let's get real.
If you're going to avoid doing something for a few days, and it won't jeopardize anyone or anything, choose the day and time you're going to do it. Make an appointment with yourself. Then, keep your word. My experience is I get something done when it "has" to get done no matter what. If that's so for you, eliminate the stress and guilt caused by the days of thinking you should be doing something, by just scheduling when you're going to do it.
Then stop calling yourself a procrastinator and admit that you do things when they need to be done - always. That's your way.
Some people put off the things they "hate" doing. If that's the case for you, examine what you "hate" doing and see if you can:
- Delegate it.
- Barter with someone who loves doing it.
- "Just Do It"! Get it over with ASAP.
- Say No!
Some people don't know how to say no. They accept requests that they really don't want to accept - that they don't have time for. Those things are put off as long as possible, all the while feeling the burden of what they agreed to do. If that's the case for you: LEARN TO SAY NO!
I know that regarding things that I want to do, or have to do, when I get them done early, it feels great. When I was in the Seminary and had a lot of assignments each month, I remember how wonderful it felt when I did the homework as soon as I received it. It's not that it ever went undone - it's just that there was such a great sense of freedom and accomplishment that accompanied doing it right away.
If that's so for you, be good to yourself. Gift yourself with the positive experience of getting what needs to be done sooner rather than later. Why would you want to take away the joy and pleasure that comes with completion?
At least for the next month think about what's going to make you happy, and have your actions be correlated to that. If eliminating procrastination will feel really good - do that!!!
Simplification - Elimate things that waste time and energy. Clean House!
Vision - Create a clear picture of the future you're committed to.
Motivation - Use the motivational techniques that keep you moving.
Habits - Replace destructive habits with supportive ones.
Time Management - Find a system that works for you and stick to it.
If you're dealing with more serious avoidance issues, and your procrastination is "really" costing you, then perhaps you should check out some of the 4,160,000 entries. There are tens of thousands of sites for overcoming procrastination, curing it, stopping it, jokes about it, stories about it. Choose something that feels right and get the procrastination handled. Get it handled now!!! Don't put it off because that's what you've always done. Remember you will be leaving a legacy behind. Let it be the one you want to leave behind.
I have found that working with someone else who holds me to account for what I want to get done really works for me. A coach will stand for you even when you are not standing for yourself. If having a partner who will stand for you leaving a great legacy behind is what you need right now:
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