We are at the onset of a new year, and many of us are eager to start with new plans, ideas and projects that we want to accomplish in the next 12 months. However, as time goes by, we tend to leave those tasks that are going to help us reach our goals “for tomorrow.” Unfortunately, tomorrow becomes today, so the procrastinator continues to set a new goal for tomorrow – over and over again. Time runs out for all of us. So, if we continue leaving for tomorrow what we are supposed to be doing today, our desired goal quickly becomes a “never goal.”
Most people who procrastinate do it to avoid tasks that are unpleasant, challenging, or boring. These tasks are usually associated with negative feelings. Psychologists believe that procrastination may be due to a combination of emotional, biological and experiential factors. However, procrastination is not linked to poor management skills, laziness, irresponsibility or lack of discipline. It is more related to trying to be perfect, avoiding being challenged, or simply fearing life. Procrastinators are usually unsure of their abilities, so they simply avoid using them to prevent any criticism in case they don’t succeed.
Procrastination can also be detrimental to our physical health. Some of the physical consequences that procrastination produces in our bodies are drinking, insomnia, gastric problems and higher chances of getting viral infections.
The good news is that procrastination can be managed by applying certain techniques. However, as with any change, this is a process and will not happen overnight. If you “fall off the wagon”, don’t give up.
1. Prepare a to-do list. Every day make a to-do list along with the time it is going to take you to complete the task. Then prioritize each task according to its importance. You can use a planner, a notebook, or simply a piece of paper. What is important here is to write down everything you need to do. If you cannot complete all the tasks you scheduled for a given day, don’t panic. Move the tasks to the following day but move them to the top of the list. A word of advice is to be conscious of the amount of time a task is going to take to accomplish. Do not try to accomplish too many things in one day. Plan for the “unplanned”, that is, any unexpected events that may occur during the day. Keep that list in a very visible spot so you are constantly reminded that there are tasks impatiently waiting for you.
2. Break tasks into manageable chunks. Any tasks should be broken into smaller more manageable tasks. Concentrate on one step at a time. Do not focus on the big goal but on the small action steps you need to take to reach the desired outcome. Thus, the task will not appear too overwhelming or challenging.
3. Set out realistic deadlines. When writing down your goals and corresponding tasks, it is important to set very specific and realistic deadlines. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to try to reach ambitious or difficult goals. Be prepared to adjust your goals as you move along, but do NOT stop! Keep going.
4. Share your goals with somebody. When we tell others about our plans and what we are trying to accomplish, we become accountable for the outcome. When we include others in our goal settings, the goal is no longer a secret. Now the world knows what we are trying to accomplish and everybody will be “watching”, waiting for the outcome. We have witnesses! And since we do not want to disappoint others, we will strive to complete those goals.
5. Concentrate on the outcome, not on the process. There is nothing more comforting that ticking off a task from your to-do list. While that is important, the feeling of accomplishment you’ll get at the end will boost your energy and motivate you to move on to the next task. As you move forward, you’ll feel a step closer to reaching your goals.
6. Avoid perfectionism. Try to do your best and do not worry about any flaws you may notice after completing the task. As human beings we have permission to experience trial and error. What is not acceptable is to avoid something for fear of not getting it perfect. Perfection is subjective, so, what you may consider “not quite right”, someone else may think is just great. After completing the task, pat yourself on the back for trying your best.
7. Reward yourself. As you move forward, make sure you celebrate your little accomplishments with something you enjoy doing. These little celebrations will help you recharge your batteries to continue working very diligently on your task. After all, you deserve it, don’t you?
8. Learn to say “no”. When working on our own goals, it is necessary that we learn to say “no” to other’s requests and demands that may distract us or shift our direction.
“In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing to do. The worst thing you can do is nothing.”