Overcoming procrastination is an essential element of good time management. So why is it so hard?
There are countless theories, but the bottom line is this: We put something off because, even though we know it’s good for us, it’s not nice to do. At some level, we resist it.
Whilst there are many reasons why we put things off, the basic premise remains the same:- Something causes us to resist taking action.
The solution for overcoming procrastination?
Many people would suggest willpower.
“Just do it!” is the popular mantra.
It's a simple, powerful and persuasive response.
The trouble is, willpower alone will not always get you through your task or project. Sure, self discipline can be exercised and strengthened, just like a physical muscle. Anyone who wants to can achieve powerful mental strength. But it’s not reliable.
How many times have you meant to do something, only to put it off?
Rely on your willpower, and your success ultimately depends on your level of intent and motivation, both of which, in turn, depend on your mood and circumstances. These are in a state of constant flux.
Anything that, initially, you find too difficult or overwhelms you leads to ‘Rabbit in the Headlights’ syndrome. You experience action paralysis. The result? You don't, won't or can't move on with it.
"Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in, day out"
- Robert Collier
Overcoming procrastination is possible if you learn and live one simple, powerful technique:
Make it easier.
That's it -- make it easier.
Any role, goal, project or action you procrastinate on will be completed if you ‘do a little a lot’. Do something daily, however small, and you’ll keep moving on with it.
Regular, focused action will take you to a tipping point. This is the point at which you feel on top of things (if it’s a role), or you achieve it (if it’s a goal).
Do this and you'll be well on the way to a cure for procrastination.
Jim looks after his garden. Some jobs he loves, but there’s one he really dislikes – weeding. Now, it needs to be done if he doesn’t want his plants and flowers smothered by weeds.
Unless he decides to get someone else to do it, he’ll have to. How? Weed for an hour a day each day? Too much. 30 minutes? Still too much.
Willpower says 'Yes', but previous experience says 'Not likely!' How about ten, five, or even one minute? Hmmm... that seems possible...
It’s not how much he does that matters; it’s the fact that he does it, and he does it regularly.
Whether it's managing weeds, completing a tax return, getting fit, or even learning how to write a novel, this is a universal principle for overcoming procrastination that works time and time again.
Imagine your resistance to a task or project as a high wall. You can’t, or won’t, climb over the wall -- it’s too high. But you can break it down into pieces, as small as you like, and step over each one.
If it’s worth doing and it’s easy enough to do, guess what? You will do it!
Once you learn how to lower the resistance you feel, you’ll almost certainly do more than you ‘have’ to.
The gardener who ‘has’ to weed for five minutes will probably go on to do a bit more, but there’s no internal expectation to do so.
Secondly, many small actions keeps you motivated.
Each time you achieve a ‘quick win’ by taking some sort of action, you feel a sense of achievement, and you actually look forward to moving on with it again.
Finally, you harness the power of accumulation.
In his book The Success Principles, Jack Canfield refers to the ‘Rule of Five’. Just five daily swings of the axe will eventually bring down the largest tree.
You won’t eliminate procrastination completely, but you can significantly reduce the time you waste doing it. These procrastination quotes highlight why we all need a bit of help with procrastination.
The focus of this article is resistance reduction, which is, essentially, a skill. And as with any skill, the more you practice it, the better you'll get.
Less wasted time, reduced stress and a tangible sense of achievement.