“The more complex a decision is, the more you’re tempted to procrastinate. Boil it down to the essence first.” Pastor Rick Warren
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Procrastination causes people problems. Fact.
I know from experience the pain and misery it causes. That horrible, queasy feeling of unfinished or neglected tasks hanging over me. The worry. Yuk! Even worse – the prospect of having to explain to God why I wasted so much time.
But you can beat procrastination – and you can start today, not tomorrow *wink* click to tweet
First of all, we’ll have a look at some background to the dreaded P word and then go through tried and tested ways to beat it once and for all! (If you can’t wait, just scroll down 🙂 )
Procrastination has very harmful effects:
- Thomas lost his business because he kept putting off sending invoices to clients.
- Caroline could have got a first at university but only scraped a pass because she never handed her work in on time and didn’t revise for her finals.
- Edward‘s friends are fed-up because he always turns up late, if at all, and he never keeps his promises because he’s ‘always too busy.’
Two types of procrastination:
20% of adults are trait procrastinators who habitually postpone or stall, like Thomas and Caroline. In other words, they routinely procrastinate, putting off even essential tasks ‘until tomorrow’.
Edward falls into the Type B Procrastination classification – mentioning a long list of irrelevant tasks he ‘had to do’ rather than the tasks he was meant to be doing.
In fact, Edward is always scurrying from one place, one task to another. However, he fails to deliver, personally and professionally. “I’m so sorry,” he says, “I’ve been so busy lately…..” and he reels off a list of activities that ‘prevented’ him doing what had been expected of him. None of which impress or placate his friends or work mates.
The reasons for procrastination include:
fear of failure or fear of success – both of which can be crippling
anxiety/low self-esteem – procrastination has a strong link to self-esteem. In fact, they feed off each other – if you have low self-esteem then you often procrastinate. This increases low self-esteem and on and on it goes……
inability to plan or start
inability to delay gratification e.g. it’s more fun to play computer games than start the report your boss asked for
The penalties of procrastination:
Disappointment – you don’t get a table at for an anniversary dinner because you didn’t book in time or you can’t wear your best suit for an important interview because you didn’t take it to the dry cleaners in time.
Self-sabotage – you don’t get the job because you didn’t apply in time. Researchers believe that trait procrastinators tend to have lower levels of wealth, health and happiness.
Increased stress – because things don’t get done which causes problems and also because putting things off causes people to feel guilty, irritable and defensive.
Lower self-esteem – which makes it more likely you will procrastinate in the future. It also encourages people to drink too much alcohol, overeat or smoke.
Increased stress in other people because we haven’t met our obligations to them professionally, personally or at church. This in turn causes us to feel stressed or guilty.
How to conquer procrastination:
“Be transformed by the renewing of your mind”
Romans 12 v 2 offers insight into how to get the better of procrastination; by changing your mind-set you can significantly change your life.
1) The vital first step is to make a conscious decision that you no longer want to procrastinate. You are going to be known as the ‘always does’ person and not the ‘never does’ person. Pray over this. Read through Proverbs.
2) Keep telling yourself that “I ALWAYS perform tasks in a timely fashion. I am competent and capable. I can do it!” Say it over and over again until you genuinely start to believe it.
3) Writing things down is essential as it makes you focus on something real. This is motivating and energising. Write out a list of everything you have to do – either at work or at home. Then review it and assign each task an Urgency Quotient:
uq Vital – for tasks that are urgent and important. If you have more than one Vital task then the most pressing is UQ1, followed by UQ2 and so on.
uq Important – for tasks that need to be done soon but are not urgent. Again, number them in order of importance.
uq Later – for tasks that can safely be left for a while.
uq Delegate – for tasks that you can hand over to someone else.
Now you can prioritise – start with uq Vital 1 (uqV1) and work through the list. You are going to feel great the moment you start on the list! Trust me on this 🙂
4) Now plan! I always tell my students that a few minutes planning their answers in an exam will make all the difference to their result. During the planning stage break the task into smaller, do-able steps. Each time you achieve a step cross it out. This adds to your feeling of purpose and achievement. So, you feel massively motivated.
5) Check you have everything you need before you start. Nothing is more discouraging than realising half way through a job that you haven’t got an item or a resource and that you are going to have to down tools and find it.
6) Make sure that your work area – either at work or home – is well-organised and free from clutter. Clutter drains you emotionally.
7) Forget perfectionism! Instead focus on excellence – do the absolute best you can at that moment.
8) Don’t be distracted. (Bubble Shooter used to be my downfall – although I did try to claim it was ‘thinking time’ 🙂 ) Remove all possible distractions and temptations. Focus. Remind yourself of the benefits of finishing the work in a timely manner.
9) Learn as you go – so that next time you face the same task you know that you can do it successfully and to an excellent standard. This is highly motivating.
10) Reward yourself each time you accomplish a task! You deserve it and it will motivate you. It doesn’t have to be anything big – just something that will make you feel good. Plus you will be able to bask in the praise from others who have noticed the change in you 🙂
So, give these ideas a go and see what happens. Remember, that it takes a while to establish a new habit – so don’t give up if you slip back into old patterns – just start again. Let me know how you get on!
Also, you can personalise these powerful words from The Bible:
(I) Trust the LORD and his mighty power. (Psalm 105:4)
God’s Spirit doesn’t make (a coward) out of (me). The Spirit gives (me) power, love, and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13)
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