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Not Now, I'm Too Busy

Overcome procrastination

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Not Now, I'm Too Busy

Overcoming procrastination is something many of us put off until tomorrow. Our tips will help you stop procrastinating now.

“It will only take a moment!” Those are our words when procrastination quietly convinces us everything in the moment is a priority. We check emails, de-clutter the office, or unload the dishwasher. We justify these actions by saying, “Tomorrow, I’ll start.” But it doesn’t happen. Procrastination steals our dreams.

Imagine yourself in this scenario where procrastination can sabotage your best intentions.

You want to join a gym because you need to lose weight. You’ve never joined a gym before and you’re a little nervous. As you pull out your laptop to search gyms, you notice all the dust on the table. You get up to fetch your dust cloth. You reassure yourself, “It will only take a moment.”

Of course, when you open the cleaning supplies cupboard, you are reminded of supplies you need, which sends you to your shopping list. Before you know it, you’re having coffee with a friend who you saw at the store where you went to pick up your cleaning supplies—along with a shopping cart full of other “necessities.”

She reminds you the workout store has a clothing sale, and today is the last day. In a panic, you rush to the store, only to find there’s nothing in your size. You come full circle to the reason you decided to join a gym! You go home to begin your search once again.

When you arrive home, email and phone messages are begging to be answered. It will only take a moment. You decide to catch up on a bit of social networking and, before you know it, it’s time to pick up your kids from school. Where did the time go?

When you get home, you ask them to play outside because you are busy looking for a gym. As you sit down at your computer, you see the dust and realize you never did wipe it. You quickly dust—the entire house.

You find the missing soccer schedule, and notice the kids have early games to get to. You whip up a quick dinner and then head out to the soccer games. After soccer, it’s a rush to get home, help with homework, make lunches, prepare for the next day, and get the kids ready for bed.

Finally, with kids in bed (it seems they always procrastinate until the next commercial), you take a moment to flip through the TV channels. Lucky for you, your favourite show is on. When the show ends, as you’re turning the lights out, you see your laptop on the dining room table. You reassure yourself, “Tomorrow, I’ll start looking for a gym!”

Creating an effective list

The night before, choose six tasks you need to complete the following day that will move you toward your goal.

  • Break large tasks down into doable sizes for the day. For example, write “search fees for three gyms” instead of “find gym.” If the task is too large, it becomes overwhelming—and procrastination kicks in!
  • Write the most important and difficult task at the top. This becomes task #1.
  • Below task #1, write the second most important task to do. For example, “Call one gym and make appointment to tour it.” This becomes task #2.
  • Continue with the next most important task for #3, all the way to task #6, which is the least important of the six items.

Making your list work

  • Begin your day working on task #1, the most important task.
  • Move onto task #2 only when task #1 is completed.
  • Move down the list as you complete the remaining tasks in order.
  • At the end of the day, if tasks are left undone, list these at the top of the list for the next day. For example, if you were unable to complete Monday’s tasks #5 and #6, list these as Tuesday’s tasks #1 and #2.
  • List new tasks for Tuesday, in priority, as tasks #3, #4, #5, and so on.

Procrastination = self-doubt

Procrastination tricks us into believing everything in the moment is more important than taking a step toward our goal. Joseph Ferrari, professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago, says procrastination is often related to self-doubt. People start worrying about performing inadequately, and it prevents them from even beginning.

The problem occurs when we step out of our comfort zone and do something we have never done before or something we may not be very good at. Our internal chatter (that little voice in our head) starts reminding us how we have no skill or ability in whatever we are attempting to do.

It may say, “You don’t know how to work out. You’ll look ridiculous! You are destined to be fat!” This internal chatter creates so many negative emotions that it drains our energy for the task at hand, and as a result, other tasks take priority. Our goal remains a distant dream.

Dr. Piers Steel, professor at the University of Calgary and a leading expert in procrastination, found confidence and procrastination go hand in hand. Funny, it only took him 10 years!

When our confidence is high, our internal chatter is positive. We have no desire to procrastinate. When our confidence is low, however, our internal chatter shifts into overdrive, reminding us of all our inadequacies. This creates internal resistance.

As our internal resistance rises, our belief in our own ability and value diminishes. In the end we feel devalued and uninspired, and lack motivation to overcome our internal resistance. The result is procrastination.

How do we deal with procrastination, other than “promising to do it tomorrow”?

Top 3 ways to beat procrastination

Research suggests that following these three steps will get you on the path to achieving your goals and dreams.

Forgive yourself for procrastinating!
Procrastination makes us feel bad about ourselves. When we forgive ourselves, we reduce the negative emotions and are less likely to procrastinate next time.

Make a list—and follow it!
It sounds so easy but while many people make a list, they never complete the important tasks. Make sure tasks are:

  • doable
  • prioritized
  • completed, before moving on

Reward yourself after completing each task.
Do something small for yourself or tell yourself how awesome you are, even if you do not believe it. Positive self-talk changes your negative internal chatter.

Why it works

Making a list—and following it in a structured way—is a great way for moving toward your dreams and beating procrastination.

  • Your thinking is generally freshest first thing in the morning.
  • You are always working on the most important task for your goal.
  • When you work on the most important tasks first, you always make great strides toward your goal.
  • As you begin to fatigue later in the day, you’ll be tackling the lowest priority tasks, which will generally take less energy and concentration.

Following these steps to achieve your goals will build repetition in your mind. When you do something over and over (in this case, making a list and following it), you build confidence. When your confidence is high, your resistance is low. When your resistance is low, nothing sits between you and your dream—not even procrastination.

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