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How To Stop Procrastinating

July 15th, 2013

Stop it...NOW!

Bad Joke

I've been putting off writing about this subject for a long time. (When you're done groaning, read on.)

Procrastination's allies

  • Perfectionism
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of planning
  • Distraction

Eliminating these allies is similar to banishing the bully's posse. When its buddies are gone, procrastination looks around in confusion and runs away. I'll dwell on perfectionism in this posting since that seems to be the bully that incorporates or encourages all the others.

Quit with the perfectionism already

Most of us want to do our best on any project. Perfectionism keeps us from doing anything. It is immobilizing. Task lists, deadlines, nagging...nothing erodes perfectionism. We people pleasers, approval seekers and over-achievers are the "low-hanging fruit" for perfectionist procrastination.

Some hard realities

The best I can do is far more likely to gain approval than doing nothing. Do we wait for the perfect solution to fall into our laps? Most often that is not the case. Usually we think

  • we will get time to do just a little more research,
  • have one more person to proof-read the report as soon as they can,
  • finish up after this catastrophe is passed,
  • talk to that person as soon as I psyche myself up for it,
  • respond as soon as I'm a little more sure of the facts,
  • explain the reasons for the overdue bill as soon as I can get to it.

We'll get around to it

  • closer to the deadline,
  • after this snack,
  • when I get the dishes done,
  • after a few games of Words With Friends to relax,
  • when the kids get older...

Oh, well, it's past the deadline now anyway (This is "constructive" procrastination.) so it gets crossed off my list by default.

Frankly the one thing all these mental devices have in common is that they fail to get the job done perfectly. They fail to get the job done at all.

So how do we stop the perfectionism procrastination bully?

*Use a task prioritized task list

Priorities here are not which tasks take the least time, like a quick email. We can recognize priorities easily by asking ourselves

  • which projects are most beneficial?
  • which ones will have the worst consequences if they are late?
  • which are the most onerous?

Give these top priority. Do first the most challenging ones that fit this description.

  • Do your best work in the context of the time and opportunity you have.
  • Finish the project before you edit
  • Keep at it. Take a stretch break in your own space every half hour or so as needed. Don't visit a co-worker, get another cup of coffee, check your email, make an extended phone call or drift into what you would do if you had more time, money for the project, expertise, or whatever other "greener grass on the other side" fantasies might thwart your current purpose.
  • Set your personal deadline a week before the actual one, and be done with it. Do the final edits, proof-reading, inspection or practice before that day, and pass the project on to whoever needs it a couple of days before they expect it.
  • Celebrate a job well-done and timely completed.

Then go on to the next task. If the project comes back to you with revisions from on high just do the work needed knowing that you did your best and now you will do your best with the new information you have. Perfectionism, be gone!

Please comment

How would you/do you deal with perfectionism or the other procrastination  bullies?

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