When we willingly defer something even though we expect the delay to make us worse off, we’re procrastinating. (per Piers Steel) And most of us are guilty as charged. It’s so easy to find a distraction that doesn’t demand much commitment that avoiding a demanding task or project is commonplace. But dragging our feet doesn’t make the job go away. It only makes us feel guilty, inadequate and ultimately overwhelmed.
Procrastination has many faces. The thrill-seeker loves the euphoric rush of waiting until the last minute. The avoider often has unrealistic expectations or a serious case of perfectionism. The decision avoider feels that by dilly-dallying, he’s absolved of any responsibility for the outcome.
Procrastination might be a basic impulse, but it’s also bad habit. It’s costly and anxiety producing. Failing to file taxes on time results in fines. Late papers and projects can mean failing grades. Dithering over a decision often closes the door on options.
Here’s a procrastination conundrum: Avoiding the onerous task doesn’t seem to make people happy. This is what William James was talking about. Not doing something we know needs to be done is exhausting and defeating. In our heart of hearts, we know that “One of these days is none of these days.” Henri Tubach
So how can we overcome the tendency to dawdle? Try better planning. Set deadlines or have others set them for you and impose penalties for failure to comply. Expect interruptions- they’re part of life so give yourself enough time to complete the project even if the roof springs a leak or the dog goes missing.
Divide projects into smaller parts, each with better definition so the tasks are concrete and you don’t have to think about how to start. Restrict your options. If you need to buy a new washing machine, determine your budget. Ask two friends for recommendations. Read several consumer reviews. Pick one that looks good enough- no expectation of perfection. Buy the darn thing!
Will power has been compared to a muscle that can be strengthened through exercise. Making now the time to act, paves the way for that pattern to more easily be repeated. You can become one of those people who accomplish things in a timely fashion. The best way to get something done is to begin.
Getting Things Done by David Allen is full of time- management tips.
“The Thief of Time” essays edited by Chrisoula Andreuo and Mark White
By Robin McCoy