“Tips for Subduing Procrastination”
by Kathleen Vestal Logan, M.S., M.A.
“I need some help! Yes, I’ve posted previously about resolutions and overcoming fears…but I’m a life-long procrastinator which continues to limit my productivity. I’m in Orlando where my husband is attending a business meeting. I lingered over breakfast with USA Today, read my Writer’s Digest, wandered around the hotel…all while NOT getting started on the list of things I planned to accomplish here. If you are a procrastinator, too, how do you get yourself going? Please share your tips.”
That was my January 11, 2013, post on the Second Blooming for Women Facebook. Apparently I’m not the only person struggling with procrastination because my request generated a number of responses from readers.
What is procrastination, anyway?
It’s putting things off until the last minute, or not even addressing important items or life issues. There are some unflattering names for us procrastinators: dilly-dalliers, laggards, foot-draggers, among others. We delay, defer, or go so slowly that our progress is hindered or, at worst, non-existent.
Why do we procrastinate?
There are lots of reasons. We may be afraid of failure…or success. One of the biggest causes of procrastination is perfectionism, or wanting the outcome to be picture-perfect, flawless. If perfection is unattainable, why start? we ask ourselves.Maybe we worry we won’t measure up to the challenge, or the task seems too hard, or we lack self-discipline. Others of us may think we’re so good that we can simply “wing it” at the last moment. We’ve all heard speakers, for example, who tried this.
The consequences are significant.
We don’t meet our personal goals, then feel guilty, frustrated or disappointed in ourselves. Self-confidence shrinks. Anxiety or panic may set in as the potential crisis grows, increasing unhealthy stress levels. On a grander scale, women over fifty may find they face the future unprepared financially, physically, or spiritually.
Tips for overcoming procrastination
Responses from Second Blooming for Women Facebook readers included:
- Know your life rhythms. “You can’t force yourself to behave in ways you will not,” author Leanna said. “Pick a time of day when you know you’re the most productive.”
- Follow your passion. Leanna also said, “The thing that helped my procrastination was just the undying love and need to tell the story of my father. It was its own entity, more powerful than procrastination.”
- Outsmart yourself. “I set myself a deadline with some sense of rationale for it. As a master procrastinator, once I hit a limit or deadline, I kick in,” said Beth.
- Renew your energy. Peter (we have a regular male reader) said, “I take a nap.”
- Inventory your activities. Beth also found, “Repeated procrastination on the same thing is often a sign that you shouldn’t continue with that activity. Review responsibilities, redefine your goals, and pass off duties that you truly don’t care about.”
- Divide the task into smaller chunks. Betsy and I, for example, wrote our book one chapter at a time. Have a mental picture of the whole task, but focus on completing it step by step.
- Tell someone what you want to accomplish so he or she can help hold you accountable. Betsy and I had so many friends asking, “How’s the book coming? When can I buy it?” that we couldn’t possibly have quit.
- Schedule your next step., Decide, for example, “I’ll finish the first draft of chapter 5 by the end of this month.” Then write the “due date” on your calendar. In red.
- Face an unpleasant task squarely. This is hard! But putting off the task increases your stress and anxiety as it looms out there, waiting for you to take action, so do it first.
- Quit being passive, using such excuses as, “There isn’t enough time,” or, “It isn’t getting done.” Be honest. Use the active, responsible voice: “I’m procrastinating.”
- Minimize perfectionism. Recognize when what you’ve done is “good enough.” Not everything demands perfection.
- Get real. Expecting myself to sit in a room all day while staying in a new, lovely resort with three pools, great workout facilities, perfect weather, and temptations everywhere was clearly unrealistic.
We need to recognize our accomplishments, too. Sometimes I’m so focused on what I have not done that I forget to acknowledge what I have done. Gentle reminders from two Facebook readers helped me regain a healthier outlook. “Knowing how much you do accomplish,” said Mary, “you should probably be telling yourself it is okay to slow down and relax.” And Ladell added, “You enjoyed what you did…lingering, reading, wandering. What a nice way to spend time! Find joy in that.”