Wow…its been nearly two weeks since I posted on here. I kept telling myself I would post tomorrow and then the next day and in the end here we are. I guess procrastination gets us all sometimes, the important thing is to realise that it’s happening, that’s half the battle. From there it’s all about having the self-discipline to actually do something about it. So what is the easiest way to overcome it? To work that out we first have to look at why do we procrastinate.
Most people confuse procrastination with laziness, however they are really two very different things. Laziness is just not being bothered and not caring whereas procrastination is the act of deferring or delaying. We delay for all sorts of reasons, sometimes because it’s just not high enough on our hierarchy of things to be done, sometimes we would just rather do something else, but importantly most of us procrastinate because it’s too hard or too much work to do. The task required can often seem like trying to eat an elephant, too big and too difficult to do it all at once. There is however a way
One mouthful at a time
Think about it, you wouldn’t try to build a skyscraper in one day, learn french from one conversation or write that massive 200 page report in one sitting. But wait, there’s an oddity there, no-one expects the skyscraper or the french to be done that way but so often we expect ourselves to do immense amounts of work in one hit and the thought of trying to do it scares us to procrastination. Most of the time that makes us delay the project until we are right up against our deadline and we either stress ourselves out rushing so much to complete it in time and do a shoddy job, or we miss the deadline and let others done. No-one wants to be known as “Oh that’s James, he never gets anything done on time”.
So how can we use this?
Well step one is to sit down (for me usually with a coffee) and make a list of what needs to be done and then break each part down to small manageable parts for example lets say we are going to write a new blog post (creative I know) I break it down to small parts like so:
- What am I going to write about? Usually a fairly vague topic that tends to narrow itself down as I write.
- Is there any research I need to do? Sometimes facts and figures are a nice addition to my rambling.
- Do I have any quotes I want to use? Double check to make sure they are right and accredited properly.
- Open up the blog, headphones on, enjoyable music going.
- The most important part, get writing. I usually tell myself I am going to write at least one paragraph and just let it flow, I can go back and edit later but the idea is to get some bulk down. After one paragraph I have a choice, give myself a break or if it’s still coming naturally (usually the case) carry on.
- Once the writing is done its time to go back and edit, make any changes and give it a good read through to make sure it makes sense to everyone else, not just me.
- Post it.
It’s a small example of a fairly small task but it shows how we can break things down to much easier and manageable bites. This sort of process works with pretty much any task as well, there is no limit to how many steps there can be, 100 is not too big of a number. It can seem fairly daunting once its all written out like this but if your list feels to long, cover up everything except step one with a bit of paper and just focus on that until its done. I like to pick certain steps that once its done I will reward myself with a break, for me usually that means going for a smoke (I know its unhealthy) but you can use anything, a sweet treat, checking Facebook for 10 mins, just something to give yourself a small mental and physical break for 10-15 minutes.
This applies to all sorts of things
My dad first taught me this method at a very basic level when I was about 6 years old. We were in the Bulgaria, skiing, and me and my dad were at the top of a slope. We had spent the first few days on the beginner slope, pretty much flat with my being pulled along by my dad and his ski pole. This was the first time on a proper slope and although it was the easiest one there, I thought I was going to crash and die. I was in floods of tears saying “I can’t do it, it’s too steep” (sounds familiar? Replace steep with any number of words, much, big, hard and that’s procrastination right there). My Dad came over and pulled my hat right down over my eyes so I could only 5 metres in front of me and said just focus on what you are going to do next in those five meters nothing else. With a lot of trepidation I gave it a go and lived to tell the tale.
Make sure you look back at how far you’ve come
I snow-ploughed all the way down that slope. When we got to the bottom my dad pulled my hat off and said “There you go, look at how far you’ve come”. It was amazing, I had come all the way down that! It’s really important to remind yourself how far you’ve come and how much you have actually gotten done, especially when you are starting to lose focus or motivation, you will be amazed at how fast it gets done. Even I am sitting here looking at how much I’ve written, its only taken me an hour and I’ve just hit over 1000 words, from something I’ve been procrastinating about for nearly two weeks. I guess sometimes we all need a bit of a push and a helping hand.
Here’s to getting it done!