English Poet and dramatist Edward Young once said, ‘procrastination is the thief of time’. Never a truer statement said!
What does it mean? Well, the Oxford Dictionary defines procrastination as: [mass noun]. The action of delaying or postponing something.
All too often we find ourselves thinking about doing the things we should be doing, or about to start important tasks, when all of a sudden along comes the instant gratification fairy….again! She used to visit me often, in fact several times a day. And when she visited, all of a sudden I had joined her in looking at social media, texting friends, or checking out new recipes…..any alternative to doing what I should really be doing. I decided my relationship with the instant gratification fairy was unhealthy and disruptive, so I decided to try and relinquish our relationship. Harder said than done, and yes, she still visits me now and again. Grrrrrrrr….why does that keep happening, and why can’t I just get focused and stop putting (important) things off?
I used to be a master procrastinator, particularly in my younger years. Even now, I still procrastinate but I’ve learned how destructive it can be and kick myself in the butt whenever I sense it creeping in, because I realise how it can severely limit my potential. Procrastination has no sense of timing. It does not know when not to interrupt and continually pesters us to come out to play before the crucial stuff has been attended to.
I end up feeling guilty, frustrated and annoyed at myself after the procrastination process, because I’ve just put pressure on myself to cut corners and as a result, and produce quality of work which is not satisfactory by my own standards, nor that of others. All of a sudden it’s the end of the day and none of the important tasks get accomplished. I start feeling useless, annoyed with myself and anxious. I basically accumulate a series of negative emotions which do not serve purpose in my life in order to be the best I can be and reach my goals.
Some of the world’s influential and well known people have been great procrastinators: Mozart, Margaret Atwood, Bill Clinton, Leonardo Da Vinci and the Dalai Lama are but a few examples.
Da Vinci, one on the most recognised leading artists and intellects of his time, has so many unfinished paintings which we know and love all thanks to his inability to focus. His benefactor even threatened bankruptcy on many occasions to try and ensure Leonardo completed all he set out to do.
As a student, the Dalai Lama, one of the most recognised and influential men in the world had the innate inability to get things moving. He has since learned his lesson and uses his experience to motivate others.
The good news is that once we duly focus on deeds and tasks which we must first carry out and fulfill, our emotions are heightened to a more jubilant and triumphant state because we have achieved something worthwhile, productive and good. It is only then, that we can fully enjoy and appreciate play time, or ‘me’ time without anxiety or worries fill our mind.
So, how do we go about diminishing how often we procrastinate? The answers may be different depending on the individual, but first try and understand how procrastination affects your life. Are there habits that cause it? Having insight to any situation prevents feelings of inadequacy and this can help you understand the root cause of procrastination. It’s from that point we can implement measures to combat procrastination.
Here are a few tips on how to help reduce procrastination.
Visualise – If you’re tempted to procrastinate, find a way to visualize your future self. Focus on the pain that results from putting things off, contrasted with the relief of having completed your task.
Manage your Time Effectively – Draw up a plan for completing tasks and keep track of your progress to ensure accuracy where possible. Effective planning improves quality of work and reduces stress.
Be Realistic – Set attainable targets to measure achievement, but be patient – change doesn’t happen overnight. Attainable goals avoids self-sabotage and feelings of low self-esteem.
Positive Self-Talk – Realise how you talk and feel whilst procrastinating. Stop it in its tracks and replace with words and thoughts which encourage you to achieve your goals.
Don’t Indulge in Fantasies – Instead, devise a workable plan to achieve them. Viewing outcomes objectively improves working energy.
Help Yourself – Be careful of the environment and whom you work with. Since we are all procrastinators to some extent, don’t allow anything to indulge your habit. Have you ever noticed people who expect help procrastinate more? Teach yourself independence and to be self-sufficient.
Reward Success – Reward yourself for completing successful tasks. This will positively reinforce effort and progress, and provides an incentive to drive you towards and achieve your goals.
Start practising today and every day beyond this one. Be all you can be!