- The longer you’re stuck in the quicksand of procrastination, the harder it is to escape it.
- Procrastination is a conscious choice not to take action.
- If there's a consistent area where you procrastinate, it’s probably time to delegate it or dump it.
This article is an excerpt from Bernice Ross’s upcoming book, “The PQ Factor: Stop Resisting and Start Persisting,” out in 2017.
During the past week, what did you postpone until tomorrow that would have been better handled today? Filing your income taxes? Saving for a rainy day? Going to the dentist? Paying your bills? Calling a loved one?
The dictionary defines procrastination as “intentionally putting something off until a later time because you do not want to do it.”
Napoleon Hill described procrastination as “the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.”
When you procrastinate, you make a conscious choice to delay or to avoid taking action. That decision typically harms you in two different ways.
First, it results in increased stress and struggle, because you spent time and have nothing to show for it.
Second, the longer you procrastinate, the more difficult it becomes to take the necessary action required to complete the task.
In other words, procrastination makes easy tasks harder and harder tasks even more difficult.
If you’re like most people, you probably know what to do. The issue is finding the motivation to take action and complete the task.
A good analogy is being caught in quicksand. The longer you’re stuck in the quicksand of procrastination, the harder it is to escape it.
For example, if you have stopped exercising regularly, the longer you procrastinate about starting to exercise again, the harder it becomes to get back into the habit.
The converse is also true; the more you exercise, the easier it is to continue exercising.
What causes procrastination?
Procrastination is a conscious choice not to take action. When you become aware that you are procrastinating, look for the underlying reason.
Are you focused on achieving a perfect outcome? Are you afraid of failing? Will the task take too much effort? Are you having trouble staying focused or feeling overwhelmed because you have too much to do?
Each time you procrastinate, pause to evaluate what is stopping you.
9 strategies for escaping the quicksand of procrastination
What can you do to escape the quicksand of procrastination in your life? Here are nine strategies:
1. Stop adding things to your to-do list
As the old saying goes, when you find yourself in a rut, the first thing to do is to stop digging. Stop making any new commitments and focus your attention on completing the commitments that you have already made.
2. Create a personal procrastination profile
To create your personal procrastination profile, begin by noting the types of activities that you complete versus those where you consistently procrastinate.
Next, compare how you felt when you procrastinated versus how you felt when you completed a task where you were tempted to procrastinate.
If you’re like most people, completing the task made you feel good. On the other hand, the incomplete task probably resulted in increased stress and frustration.
Once you are aware of when you are most likely to procrastinate, you can leverage your positive feelings about completing tasks as an additional way to motivate yourself to take action when you’re tempted to procrastinate.
3. Delegate it or dump it
If there’s a consistent area where you procrastinate, it’s probably time to delegate it or dump it. Many times people become trapped by their belief system, especially when it comes to what they “should” do.
For example, you might believe that you “should” bake a homemade cake for a special birthday when a cake from the market would be just as good and would require less effort.
4. Tackle the simple items first
If you try to stop procrastinating all at once or tackle the hardest items first, you’ll only create more struggle and stress. Instead, start with what you can handle easily, and then move to the more difficult items.
5. Put a time limit on what’s not handled
Here’s an example of how to put a time limit on what you’re not handling. If you subscribe to a print magazine, and you don’t get around to reading it this month, put the magazine in the next month’s stack.
If you haven’t read the magazine after 90 days, discard it. Allowing the magazines to pile up is a constant reminder of your procrastination that only makes you feel worse as the pile continues to grow.
6. Most mistakes can be fixed
Failure is seldom fatal. Furthermore, most mistakes can be fixed.
It’s important to realize that failure to take action is worse than trying to do something and being unsuccessful in terms of how it was executed. When you never try in the first place, you have nothing to show at all.
7. Alter your environment
If you are using time blocking as a way to be more effective, turn off your computer’s internet connection or place your mobile device in airplane mode. This allows you to avoid unimportant social media notifications or other unwanted interruptions.
Check your messages every 30 minutes as well as get up to walk around if you are sitting. Both activities support you achieving more in less time.
8. Partner up
Alcoholics Anonymous, Parents Without Partners, Weight Watchers and a host of other organizations assist people facing major life challenges by providing a supportive relationship where positive action is acknowledged and reinforced.
Many people find that it is easier to take action when they have the support of others who are facing the same challenges that they are.
9. Use the ‘one-pushup’ approach to move from resistance to persistence
In “The Art of Persistence,” Michael Stawicki discusses how he conquered his lack of discipline around exercise by committing to do at least one pushup each day.
When he knew that he had to only do one pushup to meet his goal, there was little need to procrastinate. Of course, once he had done one pushup, more followed until it became a regular part of his routine.
This is another example of how taking baby steps can banish resistance and help you move to persisting in healthier behaviors.
Reducing procrastination requires a series of small steps over a long period of time. If you’re ready to stop procrastinating, how about completing one item right now that you’ve been putting off?
Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles and two best-selling real estate books. Learn about her training programs at www.RealEstateCoach.com/