Putting things off; avoiding tasks in favor of other, more enjoyable ones- could it be Procrastination? Many people procrastinate at some point in their lives, however some people procrastinate habitually, causing undue stress and negative consequences. Have you ever put off a project, then felt anxiety and guilt because you knew the task needed to be done? Have you wondered what held you back from just diving in and completing the work?
"Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow" may be bad advice! Procrastinating is costly- each year Americans lose millions of dollars by missing the deadline for filing their taxes or making a late credit card payment, resulting in late fees and higher interest rates. Students put off writing papers, convinced they work better under pressure, only to find they underestimated the time required resulting in sleepless nights and lower grades. That tiny drip under the sink? Unattended, it may result in major damage and costly repairs.
There are several different theories about why people procrastinate. Poor time management, perfectionism, anxiety about the task at hand, and laziness have all been offered as the driving force behind procrastination. In an article in The New Yorker, James Surowiecki states "Lack of confidence, sometimes alternating with unrealistic dreams of heroic success, often leads to procrastination and many studies suggest that procrastinators are self-handicappers: rather than risk failure, they prefer to create conditions that make success impossible, a reflex that of course creates a vicious cycle."
Whatever the cause, what can one do to help overcome the tendency to procrastinate? Here are some tips:
- Give yourself realistic time-bound goals. If the project seems overwhelming, break it down into more smaller, more manageable chunks.
- Realize it doesn't have to be perfect. Do your best, or course, but give up the idea that you can't complete the project unless it is perfect..
- Go ahead and get started. If you wait till you are perfectly prepared, you may be waiting awhile.
- Prioritize. Tackle the most difficult and urgent task first. The rest of the day will seem easy!
- Reward yourself. Plan something enjoyable when you complete a task you have been putting off.
- Peer support- Ask a trusted friend for accountability.
As for me, I find it helpful to just dive in and do it. The task is not as unpleasant or difficult as I usually imagine, and the sense of relief and accomplishment is gratifying. I wish I could say that will be enough to insure a weekly blog, but I don't know about that...
To read The New Yorker article " Later" click here.