Procrastination is the delaying of less pleasurable or more urgent tasks for more pleasurable or less urgent tasks. Many people judge procrastination as our lack of self-control but it might be more useful to see it as a conflict between how we feel at the moment versus our goals.
Sometimes we excuse our procrastinating behaviours by saying that we perform better under pressure, but more often than not that’s our way of justifying putting things off. Perfectionists are often procrastinators; it is psychologically more acceptable to never tackle a task than to face the possibility of falling short on performance.
It is important to note that procrastination is a habit. Like any habit, it does take persistence to change but it can be done. Here’s how:<
1. Clarify your values and goals
• Values are things that are important to us, showing what purpose is meaningful to us. Figure these out and set goals to help you achieve your values.
• Articulate and write down your personal values and goals
• Post them on your door, mirror, notebook, iPhone, etc. so that you’ll see them frequently
• Be sure the task you think you “should” do is one that is really important to you, aligning with your values and leading to your goals. If your actions aren’t in line with your intentions, perhaps you should change your intentions: “I know I said I’ll study history now, but it’s more important for me to focus on self-care and rest after my test today. I’ll plan to do it tomorrow morning”
2. Manage your time effectively
• If you don’t know how to manage your time, learn – consult a counselor, attend a time management workshop, etc.
• Break your goal up into little parts. Write out and list the steps you must take to accomplish your goal
• Write out a plan for yourself. Make a schedule
• Establish a regular time each day to work towards your goal.
• Organize your environment, complete with the tools you’ll need so that it’s conducive to working. Or, move yourself to an environment that is conducive to working
• If you are not sure how to reach your goal, learn. For example, if you aren’t clear about a project, plan to consult with your boss.
• Start small and easily. Build gradually
3. Change your attitude
• Do you feel the world is too difficult? That you are inadequate to meet its challenges? That you cannot function without a lot of approval? Are you frustrated with the limitation of others? Expect nothing less of yourself and others than perfection? Convinced that disaster hinges on your actions? These are immobilizing, self-defeating, avoidance-producing attitudes and beliefs. Recognize them as such, and use them only to the extent that they are helpful. Don’t indulge them and don’t believe them. Replace them with self-enhancing beliefs and attitudes.
• Remind yourself of the emotional and physical consequences of procrastination. Then remind yourself of the consequences of not procrastinating.
• Concentrate on little bits and pieces of your project; don’t think “all or nothing”
• Value your mistakes; don’t judge them. What is curious, useful, interesting about them? What is worthwhile?
• Know your escapes and avoidances: socializing? Reading? Doing it yourself? Over-doing it? Day dreaming? Call yourself on them (or have someone help call you on them)
4. Change your behaviours
• Use your friends. Set up an agreement with someone to get something done. For example, make an appointment to work out with a friend who has no difficulty exercising. Make an appointment to consult someone who can help you with your task. Arrange to meet with a friend for support, someone who’ll listen and who’ll share your highs and lows.
• Make something you normally do and enjoy contingent upon doing the avoided task.
• Keep your tasks visible in front of you: set up reminders, signs, slogans, notes, lists, etc.
• Do something daily. Agree to start a project and stay with it for 5 minutes. Consider another 5 minutes at the end of the first.
• Establish priorities among tasks according to the degree of unpleasantness. Start with the most unpleasant task and work down until you get to the easier one.
• If you’ve got something hard to do, rehearse it in your imagination or with someone. Work the bugs out; don’t terrify yourself
• Be sure the rest of your life is in good shape. So your awful task is less awful within the context of a good general quality of life.
5. Accept yourself
• Give yourself time to change
• Expect and forgive backsliding
• Give yourself credit for anything you do
• Forgive yourself a lot
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