“Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder.” ~ Mason Cooley
I used to be the procrastination queen.
I’ve waited until the last minute to book trips (painfully increasing my travel costs); took too long to get my yearly car inspection (resulting in a ticket), and cut my work license renewal way too close (causing more stress then I care to remember). And please, don’t even get me started on filing my marriage license…
After many such experiences, I decided to break the habit of procrastination. I realized I had to clarify my plans, thus defining what was important to me. I had to commit to myself to stay more focused when working on my to-do list. Most importantly, I had to learn to prioritize.
We’re all busy. We have lots of people who want our time and attention, and we have lots of interests we’d like to give our time and attention to.
To change the procrastination habit, it can help for us to learn how to dig deeper when deciding what to take on, and what to put aside for the time being.
How to Break the Habit of Procrastination
Here are some questions that can be very helpful to ask ourselves when deciding how to prioritize, questions that will help us break the habit of procrastination:
1. Are we avoiding the task itself?
I personally despise transcribing; also, its very time consuming (for me). I recently decided to hire a contractor to do it for me. This has opened up more time than I ever imagined.
When exploring why I realized I had not only been spending a lot of time on the actual transcribing, I had also been spending probably twice as many hours being unproductive in various ways, to skip the task. I’d guess it was taking me 6-9 hours total for a 3-hour task, due to the avoidant behaviors. Not a very good use of time.
2. Are we dodging the task because we don’t really desire the outcome the task is attached to?
I remember chatting with a friend about how she was procrastinating about her running training, in preparation for a half-marathon. We teased out that she actually didn’t want to run the marathon at all – she was feeling some pressure from her partner to do so.
How many things do we do each day that is benefiting or pleasing others more than ourselves? (I’m not talking about sucking up to the boss or pretending you enjoy playing “go fish” with your nephew.) Growing our comfort and willingness to say “no” to actions we really don’t want to take helps keep our focus laser-like on the actions we do want to follow through on.
3. Do we need help with the task?
There are things I’d like to do on my own that I simply don’t have the skills to do. While occasionally this requires hiring a professional, there are lots of times when I can dip into my network of friends and associates and pick their brains.
Calling on a friend who has better WordPress skills than I do can save me several hours of googling, asking questions on forums (which don’t seem to get answered), and frustration. I am always certain to express my massive appreciation, as well as my willingness to assist them in kind, should a need arise.
4. Is the task really necessary?
Let’s say we’re procrastinating about cleaning out the hall closet (yeah, true story). Based on what is going on in life right now, and how much free time we have, how important is it that this clean-up occur now?
Will finishing the task increase our quality of life? Will it somehow help in our day-to-day experience? If so, make the decision and go for it. If not, why not put it aside until our time opens up, or it’s a rainy day, or we’re home with a sick child?
The point is, as, with all things, we can benefit from spending a little time considering what we really want, and then making a decision on how to proceed.
It’s not important whether we decide to procrastinate or decide to get the job done; what’s important is that we made the conscious decision and followed through. This is a far more self-empowering and productive experience than beating ourselves up for procrastinating.
What techniques do you use to combat procrastination? You can share your insights by joining the conversation in the comment section below