Mark Twain said "Never put off til tomorrow, what you can do the day after tomorrow." As I've been helping my son during his senior year of High School, I have really become aware of what a procrastinator he is – just like me! Most everyone procrastinates sometime. There are different ways to people procrastinate. Some people will delay a task in order to gather more information for completion of the task. In this case, it is not really considered procrastination because you are actively working toward completion of the task. Examples of this include: learning required skills, researching different resources for the best medical treatment or calling someone who has been in that situation.
But some "procrastinators" do nothing at all toward the task that needs completed. Unfortunately, the task is not forgotten but remains as a nagging feeling and eventually, the task must be done. And others, will do other things of less importance than the avoided task. While something is getting done, the avoided task remains undone and will need to still be completed sometime (this is definitely me!)
There are many reasons given for delaying a task and sometimes just knowing the cause for delay can help to overcome the obstacles. Here are some reasons often given:
- Lack of skills – "I don't know how." Delaying is helpful if that time is used to learn the skills.
- Disorganization – "I don't know where to begin." Sometimes a project is too big to accomplish in the time we have available. Some projects are overwhelming and by not knowing where to begin, nothing is done. When there is too much to do at one time, it is helpful to break the large tasks into smaller ones, making them more manageable.
- No deadline – "There is plenty of time." If there is not a deadline, it is often helpful to set personal goals for completion.
- No one else knows about it – "I'm the only one who cares if it is done." Being accountable to someone else increases the chance that a project will be completed. Telling someone else of goals makes it more likely that the goals will be met in a timely manner.
- Unimportant – "I don't know why this needs to be done." Self-talk tends to be negative if one believes that the project has no purpose. If it truly matters to no one, admit it and drop the project. If the project is important to someone else and needs to be completed, concentrate on that fact.
- Don't enjoy the task – "I would rather be doing anything else." Some projects simply must be done, even though they are not enjoyable.
- Fear – "I will not be able to do it right." Procrastination may be the result of fear of failure or fear of not doing it perfectly. As a result, there is a rush at the last minute to complete the task and it is not done as well as it might have been.
So remember, to decrease procrastination and get motivated, you can:
- Obtain the skills needed for the activity. If it is impossible to learn the skills, let someone else do the activity.
- Break the task into smaller parts that can be completed in short segments.
- Share goals with someone else to increase accountability.
- Be aware of self-talk. Keep it positive and optimistic.
- Honestly confront your fears. Is it … Fear of the consequences of the completed task? Fear of failing to complete the task? Fear that it won't be done perfectly?
- Set up a reward for yourself for when you complete the task.
If you are lacking the get up and go to do something that truly should be done, choose one of these strategies and start it today!