Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Overcoming Procrastination

An interesting article posted on Steve Pavlina's Personal Development Blog

Procrastination, the habit of putting tasks off to the last possible minute, can be a major problem in both your career and your personal life. Missed opportunities, frenzied work hours, stress, overwhelm, resentment, and guilt are just some of the symptoms. This article will explore the root causes of procrastination and give you several practical tools to overcome it.

Replace "Have To" With "Want To"

The solution to this first mental block is to realize and accept that you don't have to do anything you don't want to do. Even though there may be serious consequences, you are always free to choose. No one is forcing you to run your business the way you do. All the decisions you've made along the way have brought you to where you are today. If you don't like where you've ended up, you're free to start making different decisions, and new results will follow. Also be aware that you don't procrastinate in every area of your life. Even the worst procrastinators have areas where they never procrastinate. Perhaps you never miss your favorite TV show, or you always manage to check your favorite online forums each day. In each situation the freedom of choice is yours. So if you're putting off starting that new project you feel you "have to" do this year, realize that you're choosing to do it of your own free will. Procrastination becomes less likely on tasks that you openly and freely choose to undertake.

Replace "Finish It" With "Begin It"

Secondly, thinking of a task as one big whole that you have to complete will virtually ensure that you put it off. When you focus on the idea of finishing a task where you can't even clearly envision all the steps that will lead to completion, you create a feeling of overwhelm. You then associate this painful feeling to the task and delay as long as possible. If you say to yourself, "I've got to do my taxes today," or "I must complete this report," you're very likely to feel overwhelmed and put the task off.

The solution is to think of starting one small piece of the task instead of mentally feeling that you must finish the whole thing. Replace, "How am I going to finish this?" with "What small step can I start on right now?" If you simply start a task enough times, you will eventually finish it. If one of the projects you want to complete is to clean out your garage, thinking that you have to finish this big project in one fell swoop can make you feel overwhelmed, and you'll put it off. Ask yourself how you can get started on just one small part of the project. For example, go to your garage with a notepad, and simply write down a few ideas for quick 10-minute tasks you could do to make a dent in the piles of junk. Maybe move one or two obvious pieces of junk to the trash can while you're there. Don't worry about finishing anything significant. Just focus on what you can do right now. If you do this enough times, you'll eventually be starting on the final piece of the task, and that will lead to finishing.

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