It's this time of the year again when we look at what we have accomplished so far and start planning for the upcoming year. The unfortunate side effect of this time is that we often put too much pressure on ourselves, which is a set-up for future frustration and procrastination.
Do you ever feel overwhelmed and exhausted by all the things you need to do? And when you feel overwhelmed, do you sometimes complain, procrastinate and not take any action at all? And all this time, you are building resistance. You are not alone. Many people can relate to this experience. Resisting and complaining sap your energy. Whenever you feel the build-up of resistance, you want to stop and think about how you can move from resistance to acceptance. Stewing is worth than doing.
What causes procrastination
There may be several causes of your procrastination. Read the following common reasons why people procrastinate and check what applies to you:
- Poor time management habits;
- Feeling of overwhelm;
- Resistance to the task itself or other people’s expectations;
- Lack of focus, purpose, or commitment;
- Lack of confidence;
- Fear of failure;
- Fear of success.
Visioning and mental rehearsal
Use procrastination to envision the outcome, to brainstorm and mentally "rehearse" the project. Give yourself permission to come up with bad ideas and don't filter anything. Your unrestrained imagination may lead you to innovative solutions. You can also use this time to create a mind map of your project. Time constraints may be a good thing as they can drive creative. Those of you with a perfectionist streak may find it therapeutic to use your procrastination time to produce something fast without worrying too much about quality. Remember, it's just a rehearsal. That way, you will have something to build on and improve later.
Use procrastination to organize your thoughts and assess your progress objectively. Mentally run down the list of burning questions you must address. Here are a few favorites to get you started:
- What needs to be done?
- Why would it be desirable to do those things?
- What have you already accomplished that will help you move forward with this project?
- What do you need to know to complete this project?
- What kinds of resources and help will you need when you start working on the project?
- What's the next action step?
Write out your answers. Writing brings clarity, calmness and objectivity to the mind. Notice any shifts in your mental and emotional states once you have done the exercise.
SMART goal setting
Use procrastination to strategize and create a plan. Define objectives, deadlines, and milestones for your project. It's time to set SMART goals:
- Realistic (but don't be afraid to stretch yourself)
Try a three-tier structure for your goals: the theme, the goals to support your theme, and the steps to accomplish your goals.
Your theme can be the big reason behind the project, the main aspect of it, or the crucial learning and development point. The theme helps to unify the parts of the project, provide additional motivation and momentum to move forward.
Break your project into well-defined goals that will serve as the milestones for your work. When deciding upon goals,
- Make them big enough to really stretch your comfort zone. We often underestimate what we can achieve.
- Picture the benefits you gain from completing your goals. Visualize the outcomes. How would you know you have accomplished your objective? How will it feel to succeed? Capture your best reasons on paper and return to them when you need extra motivation.
- Identify the cost of your goals. Each goal comes with a price tag. What do you have to give up for the opportunity to achieve your goals? Identify those trade-offs and decide if you are truly willing to pay the price.
- Prioritize and eliminate inconsistent goals. The goals we set often compete for our time, effort, and resources. It's important to know the priority of your goals and check for conflicting objectives. You may be as passionate about visiting Italy as you are about visiting Brazil, but you can't be in two places at the same time. You must choose.
- Set a deadline for each of your goals.
- Schedule regular intervals to revisit your goals and track your progress.
Finally, divide your goals into smaller tasks or steps, giving each task a target date for completion as well. These steps will give you a clear picture of what you should be working on at any given time.
Use procrastination to motivate yourself for success. Take a walk in the park, meditate, put on your favorite CD – do whatever works for you to create a positive vision of accomplishment. Keep your eyes on the finish line. How will you feel once the project is completed? What will you do for fun to reward yourself for your great work? Think of little rewards you can give yourself when you complete each part of a longer project. Talk to people who can motivate you for action. Write down two or three positive attributes of the final product as you see it and repeat those attributes whenever you sense negative self-talk.