Confessions of a Procrastinator. 5 ways to overcome

Confessions of a ProcrastinatorI meant to post this blog last week…

But surprise, I put it off… Anyone who is close to me, knows that procrastination is my worst fault. It is my weakness.

I have spent most of my life doing things that I “feel” like doing. Yes I am a very passionate and energetic person. I can dive into a project and do great things when I’m very passionate about it. The sad thing is, I never feel much passion about doing laundry or washing dishes. Who does? Okay, maybe there are a few people out there who do enjoy the process. I envy them. I am obviously not one of them.

When I look at my to-do list for the day, my tendency is to “hope I feel like editing that video this afternoon, because right now I only feel like checking email.”

Other traps are like this one: I’ll play around on Facebook while I drink my coffee…hoping that the caffeine buzz will spur me into production.

It’s really been what I call a “hit or miss lifestyle.” When you go through life doing things you only feel like doing, and postponing the rest, a huge layer of stress and anxiety fall into your life.

I like to blame my procrastination on the epidemic in our society that wants instant gratification. I know that sounds contradictory…delay versus instant. But the instant gratification that I’ve succumbed to actually fits in well with delaying the things that don’t bring instant gratification.

I’m guilty of saying and feeling: “I want it all and I want it now.” All the latest inventions or new technologies focus on getting us things quicker and more conveniently. My children don’t remember life before the microwave, but that was such a HUGE deal when we got our first one. We could cook a hot dog in under a minute versus the 10 minutes it took to boil them on the stove. I’m even currently guilty of using a single serve coffee maker rather than brewing a pot of coffee. Waiting 15 minutes for a pot to brew seems so long rather than the 30 seconds on my Keurig. Our television watching has even changed. We now predominately watch on demand internet content (Netflix & Hulu) rather than my childhood process of waiting until 8:00 in the evening to watch whatever was being broadcast at the time.

Oh sure, I’ve excused the above changes to the reasoning that I’m saving myself so much time that I can be more productive. But it’s really not about being productive for me. It’s about laziness and instant gratification.

Procrastination for me has been the biggest thief of my happiness. When I procrastinate, worry and dread start building up. Unfinished projects pressure me. It takes energy to ignore what needs to be finished. I don’t sleep as well when I have something hanging over my head.

Procrastination is a HABIT. And it’s a habit that needs breaking. Procrastination puts things off. Procrastination is disobedience. If we are willing to obey and take action in the small details, we will have fewer problems with the bigger projects in life.

Forming the habit of being a “now” person is a person who does what needs to be done as soon as you can. Joyce Meyer states in her new book “Making Good Habits, Breaking Bad Habits”: When we refuse to use our time to do the things we need to do, we always end up losing time taking care of the emergencies and messes we created through procrastinating.

Don’t wait for a convenient time to begin any task. Character is not developed through ease and convenience, but through doing NOW what needs to be done no matter how difficult it is.

What if you’ve procrastinated so much, that you’re overburdened and overwhelmed?

Here are a few steps you can do now (and what has helped me):

  • Make a list and start with the most difficult and get it out of the way. Seriously, try it and see how much relief you feel. I only have a limited supply of willpower. Once it’s been used up for the day, chances of tackling hard tasks are pretty slim. So I dive into my hardest task when my energy level is at its highest. This ensures the best results. When I delay the hard tasks to the end of the day,you can count on it that I’ll reschedule to the next day. The delay takes a toll on my energy all day long. In the end, stressing over the task I’m procrastinating negatively affects all the other tasks on my list. Oh…and beware of the tendency to just ignore the entire list. I’ve done that too!
  • Divide the task into smaller tasks. I get overwhelmed when a giant project looms over me. I don’t know where to start or what to do first. Keep in mind that forests are made up of individual trees. (Showing my Oregon roots here) Though you may not be able to take down a whole forest at once, you could certainly start with one tree (or even a branch).
  • Commit yourself for a small period of time. I set a timer on my phone…ten minutes to clean off my desk. By frantically racing the clock for that short period, I usually find myself engrossed in the task and continue working. (My husband calls it “the zone.”) The feeling of dread that has been on my mind is quickly replaced with a sense of pride and satisfaction. Seeing what I can accomplish in ten minutes when I put my mind to it is quite motivating.
  • Schedule your tasks on the calendar. When I can plan out a week in advance on my calender, it helps me move past the initial paralysis I feel. Instead of just writing the tasks down in a to-do list, I take it a step further and identify when and how I’ll accomplish it. Yes, I do a ton of moving things around, but somehow planning out the tasks helps me complete them. It also helps me not forget things or let some small jobs slip through the cracks.
  • Reward yourself. Psychologists know that reward is a much stronger motivator than punishment. I love rewards. Sometimes just knowing I’m going to enjoy a cup of coffee on the patio spurs me on.

Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 When you tell God you’ll do something, do it—now.

God takes no pleasure in foolish gabble.

Vow it, then do it. Far better not to vow in the first place than to vow and not pay up.