“Today is your day, your mountain is waiting, so get on your way” (Dr Seuss)
Dreaming about a thing in order to do it properly constitutes wisdom; dreaming about a thing when you should be doing it is ineffective. Contemplating your vision and meditating on it, letting it become engrained in your mind, is helpful, but you need to beware of giving over to mere dreaming when once the vision is clear. Procrastination and hesitation will never bring vision into actuality, but focus and energy applied appropriately give you a good chance of realising dreams. There comes a moment when you need to simply get up and get on with it!
William James noted: “Nothing is as fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task”. Routinely putting off important tasks can be costly – on your health and your results. Of course, procrastination happens to all of us at one time or another – and to varying degrees – but when procrastination is not under control, we will likely experience loss in many areas of our lives. Procrastination takes away from our true potential as individuals and actually sadly reduces what we achieve as a society. Procrastination is an active process – you choose to do something else instead of a task that you know you should be doing. It usually involves ignoring an unpleasant or difficult, but likely more important, task in favour of one that is more enjoyable or easier. Giving in to this impulse has negative consequences.
Much has been written about overcoming procrastination and many people have bought books to conquer procrastination, but a large percentage of them never get to read the books – they procrastinate on this too! Overcoming procrastination requires determination to make a success of your life, focus and energy – possible steps to achieve this are as follows:
- Be honest – recognise that you are procrastinating. Filling your day with low-priority activities, leaving tasks on your To-Do lists for a long time, reading e-mails several times without making a decision on what to do with them, waiting to be in the right mood or for the right time to do something – all these are symptoms of procrastination.
- Be analytical – identify why you are procrastinating. Once you understand the reason behind inactivity, you can take remedial action, for example:
- If you avoid a task because you find it boring or unpleasant, then take steps to get it out of the way as quickly as possible (I set myself a target time for completion and have a timer handy to keep myself on track).
- If you are poorly organised, develop schedules of tasks according to priority and deadlines.
- If you are overwhelmed by a task’s difficulty, then get help. Working together with someone on a task provides the opportunity to learn.
- If you feel that your decision-making abilities are less than optimal, ask your boss for more frequent short conversations for alignment of priorities.
- Be action-oriented – adopt anti-procrastination strategies. Procrastination is habitual and it thus takes time to change this pattern of behaviour. Attempt some or more of the actions below to give yourself the best chance of success:
- Forgive yourself for past mistakes – studies seem to indicate that self-forgiveness is motivational and decreases the likelihood of procrastination in the future.
- Focus and apply energy appropriately – commit to the task and focus on doing, not avoiding. Be proactive.
- Establish a reward for completed tasks – a cup of coffee downstairs or five minutes spent on social media may be adequate rewards to motivate one to complete tasks.
- Make yourself accountable to a trusted colleague – a colleague can monitor your progress and give feedback. This is a form of self-designed peer pressure.
- Minimise distractions – turn off social media, e-mails, etc.
Most people want to be successful – to reach success, you not only have to cultivate the ability to say “yes” and “no” appropriately, but also the determination to knuckle down to complete important tasks, even if unpleasant to do. Develop the habit of getting up and getting on with it.