How to better manage Procrastination



Most of us have practiced the great art of procrastination at some time or the other.  I used to be an expert.  I would always check out the late fees first before finding out the regular fees – for exams, filing tax returns, application submission, you name it.  These are the mandatory things where there is a deadline.  For other important things without a deadline, procrastination was easier. I would delay refinancing my mortgage and then make a feeble attempt.  When the interest rates moved up, that gave me an excuse to not refinance at all.   I put off taking the GMAT, to apply for business school.  Starting an entrepreneurship – that was delayed to no end.  I still have to get on with my exercise routine (I am working on it).

Upon analysis, I feel the following are some reasons why people procrastinate:

  a. The task is too complex (above example of refinancing).

  b. The task is huge (my case of starting an entrepreneurship).

  c. You have to get out of your comfort zone (moving houses or getting another job).

  d. You do not have much control over the outcome of the task (entering into a competition).

  e. The task requires some research.

  f. You need expert help, especially paid services (setting up a will).

  g. The task requires lots of effort and patience (building a blog).

  h. You are just lazy (as in most of my cases).

While not much can be done about the last reason, for most people aspiring to be effective leaders, the others can be fixed.  Do write in with any other reasons that you can think of, in this context.

Effective leaders do not procrastinate.  They get things started and completed on time.  The following are some steps that will help you get things started on time:

Understand the importance of the task:

So the next time you consider any such initiative, put pen to paper and first of all write down why you want to accomplish the activity.  List out the benefits that will accrue to you upon successful accomplishment of the project.  More importantly, try to find for whom you are taking on this task.  (hint: you will be motivated to begin if it benefits your own self, makes you feel better, improves your self-esteem, etc.).

Then write down the things that you can do, the things that are within your control.

Also list out what is not in your control.  But don’t stop there.  Find out who can help you change the status quo.  Formulate a plan B.

Break-down the monumental task:

If necessary and if possible, break down the activity into smaller, more easily manageable pieces.  Then put a sequence to the tasks.  Backtrack from the goal and lay down the milestones backward, till you arrive at a feasible start date.

Understand resources:

Begin by listing down all resources that are available to you.  Sometimes, seeking help could be an option.  You’d be surprised at the options available if only you open up your mind and think about all the folks that may do something for you.  Be prepared to commit to returning the favor.  Sometimes understanding that assistance is available spurs one into action.

Remember your accomplishments:

Whenever you do something on time, you would have surely felt a sense of triumph sweep through you.  I would enjoy those moments simply because they were so rare!  Make a list of those accomplishments.  Revisit them every time you feel you are putting something off.

Finally, schedule it:

Start planning in earnest, but make sure you schedule it.  I am constantly surprised by the magical effect scheduling has.  When you make that appointment, when you put something on the calendar, you accord a certain importance to the task.

For example, today (April 3) I had scheduled an appointment with my tax preparer.  I thought at least twice of calling up and postponing the appointment.  Being the lazy person that I am, I did not make the call.  So I ended up keeping the appointment and my taxes are done.  The fact that I beat tax day by 12 days has given me a sense of triumph.

When you schedule something, there is a good chance that the thing will get done.

The above tips are to help you get started.  With good planning and effective execution, you can ensure a successful outcome.

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