Surfing the Web is one way that I am constantly avoiding what I really need to be doing. I didn’t used to be a procrastinator but lately it just seems easier to delay cleaning out the fish pond by reading about the latest on TMZ. While surfing one day I found another article by Dr. Robert Leahy about,you guessed it, PROCRASTINATION. I am guilty of it in all phases of my life, including my writing.
Dr. Leahy said that there are certain ways of dealing with procrastination to make you less likely to do it. First, you must focus on a specific task. Thinking about all the things you have to be doing allows you to put them all off. Choose a specific task then set a specific time to accomplish it. Don’t say, “I’ll get to it tomorrow or next week.” Pick an exact time to do it and make an appointment with the task. Then he said that you must list the advantages and disadvantages of doing the task. The disadvantages include not wanting to do it, having something else to do that is more fun, or simply not having the time to do it. The advantages would be that you accomplished something or that, by doing the task, you will benefit in the long run, i.e. exercise (the results are not immediate but eventually you will be in better shape and feel better). Once you weigh the advantages versus the disadvantages you will probably come to the conclusion that you are simply avoiding it and not realizing the benefits of accomplishing your goals.
Practicing “constructive discomfort” is also something you must do to overcome procrastination. Dr. Leahy said that most procrastinators over-estimate the discomfort of doing a task. He said to look at the task and rate it from 0-10 in discomfort level – one being tight shoes and 10 being “water-boarding.” The procrastinator will usually over-estimate the discomfort level. Write down the level and then proceed to do the task. He said that most will realize that the task was not that bad. You have been dreading something that didn’t carry the discomfort you thought it would. That is called practicing “constructive discomfort.” This is empowering yourself to see passed the discomfort to acknowledge the feeling of accomplishment you receive for completing the task.
The one thing that I saw in his article was what we writers already know: we must practice successful imperfection. We must make progress and not perfection. Doing something positive every day moves you toward the goal that you are seeking. If you write a little every day eventually that book will be written. Dr. Leahy said that procrastinators are closet perfectionists who want to make everything perfect yet know that they cannot be perfect. The procrastinator will then say so why bother? No one is perfect and no performance of any task can be perfect. But if we strive every day to accomplish a small goal, we are practicing successful imperfection.
Finally, the part I really liked: REWARD yourself. If you accomplish a goal or complete a task, you get a reward for doing it. Do something that you want to do and give yourself a pat on the back for completing what you set out to do. So everyday, if you write your goal, give yourself a reward like reading the latest Blaze or maybe taking a hot soak in the tub. Little rewards give you something to look forward to.
I hope this helps those of you that put off those really bad jobs. Dr. Leahy’s approach gives you a pattern to follow in overcoming procrastination. I know I am guilty of always finding something else to do when the job is boring or hard. Now I can make my little list and see that I have been dreading doing the task for nothing.
Do you procrastinate? About what? How do you avoid the evil of putting things off?