This is the second part of my feature on how to avoid procrastinating (and therefore, getting nowt done). To read Part 1, click here.
Denial – If you have been directing your energy elsewhere, or you are continually putting off making a start on something because you believe you need to be in the right mood, you may be using denial to gloss over the problem. If you start the task whatever your mood, especially if there is a deadline involved, your self-esteem will increase and you’ll feel brighter for achieving what you set out to do.
‘I’ll do it later’ is a familiar cry of the procrastinator, and ‘later’ has a tendency to become some intangible time in the future.
Got to plan a work presentation? Schedule it in. Start first thing in the morning and if it’s already morning, plan a start after lunch. Unless you work well in the evenings, try not to leave jobs until near the end of the day or you will find that they either spill over to the next one, or you’ll be too tired to make a start.
Lack of Focus – Do you feel like you aren’t really sure where to start and the mental fog has well and truly descended? If you feel unfocussed about a task, work with what you have and make a rough outline or plan of what you need to do.
David Allen, author of Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Work and Life (£10.99, Piatkus Books), says, ‘We’re often not sure what’s next or what to tackle. At that point, just clean or complete something – something obvious and in front of you, right away. Soon you’ll have the energy and clarity to know what’s next, and you’ll have cleared the decks for more effective responsiveness on every front’.
Don’t be afraid of asking for help either; it could save you a lot of stress. Again, try scheduling rewards in-between sections to give you a reason to find focus. If you have already started and have a tendency to ‘lose your way’, try tracking your progress as you go along. Seeing what you have already achieved can spur you on to knuckle down and achieve more.
Guilt – Feeling guilty is common if you’ve already got into the habit of putting things off. The most important thing is not to beat yourself up about it. There is always time to start or finish, so apply some of the ideas previously mentioned and take action!
However, you may run out of time, say if a deadline has already passed. In this case, use it as a future reminder to yourself not to unnecessarily delay things – so you aren’t claimed by the grip of procrastination again!
If you learn to spot the signs of procrastination in yourself, you can look forward to a greater sense of freedom, organisation and motivation in your life. As Neil Fiore says in his book The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play (£10.99, Jeremy P Tarcher), ‘Procrastination is not a character defect; rather, it is an attempt – albeit an unsatisfactory one – at coping with the often uncapacitating fear of having our worth held up for judgement.’
Remember though that we all have our ‘off’ days, and you may not always succeed, but you’ll be better equipped to deal with them when you do.