Now I reckon I'm an expert on this subject - procrastination? Could write a book about it! But no, I won't inflict that on you, just a few ideas, tips and hints that might help you get over those situations when a job has to be done, and you're really struggling to start. For most of us, what generally happens is that we put that task off, again and again, and then discover we are running out of time - panic sets in, the deadline approaches, and you end up having to do it anyway and probably not doing the job the best you can. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Well, most of us suffer from this problem to some degree.
So what are some of the causes of procrastination? Putting off a task because we think it's going to be unpleasant; fear of failure; guilt; the wish to feel safe, avoiding risk; and, oddly enough, fear of success! Some, or all, of these will be recognisable to you.
So, basically, procrastination is caused by fear. And procrastination can pop up in various guises: indecision - if you can't decide what to do, you don't have to do it: sickness - migraine or stomach upset often precede an unwanted situation: or busyness - my personal favourite is list making! Hey, you can go on making lists - and lists of lists - endlessly.
Because of procrastination, you can end up waiting for things to work out, and by waiting and not moving forward, you run the risk of having to react to events in your life rather than being in control of them. In extreme cases, this fear can become an illness - an inability to perform any task at all because of the belief that it has to be perfect. And remember, when you are procrastinating, you are using up the present moment by doing absolutely nothing.
And this is really what it is about - our beliefs and thoughts about future events. But thoughts can be changed, they are not cast in stone, and a belief is just a thought.
So what can we do about it and how can we help ourselves? First of all, recognise what is happening, and once you identify procrastination, you can start to deal with it.
· Just begin something, whatever it is you've been putting off - a letter, a phone call - but tell yourself that you'll only do it for five minutes, and then you will stop. You will find that you will actually finish the task once you start, because, of course, it's not nearly so intimidating as you had thought.
· Stop thinking in the long-term. Everything seems so huge when you look at the whole of a task. Take, for example, writing a book - writing and finishing a whole book is a truly daunting prospect, but what if, instead, you decided to write for ten minutes today? That's all, ten minutes. You will probably find yourself writing for twenty minutes - hey, that's great, give yourself a big pat on the back.
· Or how about, giving yourself a definite time to do that task you've been putting off. Put it in the diary, for, say, 10.00 on Saturday. It's there written down, just like any appointment, which of course you will keep.
· And why not ask yourself, 'What is the worst thing that could happen to me if I do this task?' Write down the answer, read it through and the chances are that it really isn't that scary after all.
· It also helps to recognise the words we use when we're immobilised by procrastination, 'I wish I had a new job' - well it's not going to arrive in the next post, so go out and get it! And the very insidious word 'should'. This is a word I have struck from my vocabulary and I suggest you do the same. It not only means that you are not doing a task, it also makes you feel guilty - a double whammy! Try instead to say 'I could do ...' and this then gives you the choice and the power.
Remember that we are not perfect, and that whatever we do is not going to be perfect either. We can only do our best, and that's all anyone can ask of themselves - so just do it!
This article was written by Linda McGrory, a professional copy-editor and proofreader, and webmaster of :
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