Beat the Procrastination Bug

Eight powerful ways to get important things done – starting now!

Are_you_overwhelmedMany years ago, Walt Kelly, in his famous “Pogo” comic strip, observed, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Kelly’s comment concerned pollution, but he could easily have been referring to procrastination, better known as “putting things off.” When we procrastinate, we become our own worst enemy.

Procrastination can be relatively benign: I’ll clean out the garage, um, next weekend. Or it can be serious, getting us into more hot water than a Maine lobster at dinnertime, when we put off our personal and professional deadlines.

Everyone procrastinates from time to time, even the most focused and productive among us. But a chronic occurrence of procrastination can be immobilizing, and it is often accompanied by feelings of anxiety, guilt, even depression. In these instances, professional help should be considered. For those only occasionally bitten by the procrastination bug, here are eight tips for getting yourself in gear:

1. Overcome inertia: This is likely the hardest task for most of us. There’s no magic here, it’s simply a matter of deciding to take the first step.

2. Organize and prioritize: Writing a “To Do” list is essential if you are to see precisely what needs to be accomplished. Prioritize by ranking the items in order of their importance. Break down what needs to be done by the day, week and month. Then stay on task. As Stephen Covey wrote in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “keep the main thing the main thing.”

3. Chunk it down: Michelangelo created magnificent sculptures by chiseling away at a block of marble a little at a time. Practice breaking your big tasks into smaller, more manageable bits and pieces. You’ll feel less overwhelmed.

4. Be time-conscious: When assigning a firm due date to projects, we sometimes have a poor sense of precisely how much time they will take to complete. Then, as the deadline draws nearer, we may panic at the thought of not finishing. Time-management experts routinely recommend that when you estimate the time needed to complete a project, automatically add 30 percent to 50 percent more time. Doing so will help you accommodate inevitable interruptions and unexpected occurrences while still remaining on schedule.

5. Be your own cheerleader: If your interest in a project begins to wane, use self-motivating statements until the job is done. Statements such as, “The time to do this is right now,” or “The sooner I get this behind me, the better off I’ll be” can be surprisingly helpful. Write these phrases on sticky notes and post them on your desk or other visible places to serve as reminders.

6.Avoid perfectionism: Focus on a project’s completion, not perfection, which is unachievable anyway. Corrections and modifications can always be made once the task is finished, and that’s okay! Pencils have erasers for a reason.

7. Note your progress: Remember that “To Do” list? Once you have completed something on your list, cross it off. This helps you track your progress, and it spurs you on. See the glass as half-full by concentrating on all that you have done — instead of what you haven’t.

8. Celebrate completion: Once a project is completed, treat yourself to dinner in a favorite restaurant, see a good movie, or splurge on something else you really want. Rewards are your payoff for diligence and hard work.

The Earl of Chesterfield once said, “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” So use these eight techniques to end your habit of procrastination. Make it your personal challenge to take action on something important – and do it today!

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Joe Wegmann is a licensed clinical social worker and a clinical pharmacist with over 30 years of experience in counseling and medication treatment of depression and anxiety. Joe’s new book, Psychopharmacology: Straight Talk on Mental Health Medications is available at www.pesi.com. To learn more about Joe’s programs or to contribute a question for Joe to answer in a future article, visit his website at www.thepharmatherapist.com, or e-mail him at joe@thepharmatherapist.com.