One of the most significant impediments to advance in life, and to have the fullness necessary to enjoy it, is that of putting things off and postponing tasks, commitments or goals that we propose or that we need to complete.
This trend currently encompasses more than 65% of the working population. It ranges from small actions, such as postponing going to the market to buy something necessary, to much more complex, such as delivering an essential report at work on time or making our word, which, Dennis Waitley, well says it.
“Procrastination is the fear of success. People procrastinate because they are afraid of the success that they know will result if they move ahead now. Because success is heavy, carries a responsibility with it, it is much easier to procrastinate and live on the “someday I’ll” philosophy.” – Dennis Waitley
Well, it seems that it is not so, given the results of this sixty-five percent of people.
The term “procrastinate” (from the Latin procrastinare: pro, forward, and crastinus, referring to the future) is procrastination or postponement is the action or habit of delaying activities or situations that must be addressed and replacing them with other more irrelevant or pleasant situations.
Science explains that it is a behavioural disorder that has its roots in the association of the action to be carried out with change, pain or discomfort (stress). This can be psychological (in the form of anxiety or frustration), physical (such as that experienced during acts that require hard work or vigorous exercise) or intellectual.
The term “procrastinate” (and not procrastination, as it has been popularly simplified) is commonly applied to the sense of anxiety generated by a pending task without having the willpower to complete it.
The act that is postponed can be perceived as overwhelming, challenging, disturbing, dangerous, perplexing, tedious or boring, that is, stressful, which is why it is self-justifying to postpone it to an idealized future, in which what is important is subject to the urgent.
“Postponing action is only postponing achievement.” – Rick Pitino
If we rule out severe neurological or behavioural problems that must be diagnosed by medical professionals, psychologists, and psychiatrists, we can agree that procrastinating/delaying things are a repeated resource that delays and slows down any positive and transcendently evolving outcome that you want to achieve.
Procrastination has thus become an enemy of personal and professional productivity. Organizations suffer from this exponentially enhanced evil by the number of people meaninglessly putting off tasks that, within a reasonable framework, can be accomplished without delay.
Bureaucracy, for example, beyond the processes that need to be reviewed, is another example of how it affects citizens in different countries.
In a relationship, procrastination in decision-making erodes ties. The lack of quick elections, however simple they may be, the postponement of essential conversations, shirking responsibilities and leaving for tomorrow, “total nothing happens” are some of the multiple excuses of procrastinators.
15 steps to stop putting things off or beat procrastination
- One-minute rule (or two): David Allen, a great time organization expert recommends that, if you are planning actions on your pending or decisions, if it takes less than a minute or two, do it at the moment: don’t leave it for later. You will free up considerable space in your life energy.
- Start with small goals. Define what you are going to make decisions about, and you will not postpone. Find something simple (for example, do the laundry) and do it right away. Over a whole month in a row, the level of complexity in tasks that you used to postpone gradually increases. After approximately 33 days, you will be training your unconscious to respond immediately to those things that you postponed previously.
- Don’t think about it: Sometimes overthinking is what turns you against your will (the nuclear factor – of the ‘desire’ to do something). Take action immediately. Check immediately how you feel internally. Regain that inner emotional state the next time you are tempted to let yourself be.
- Establish routines: Repetitive tasks can be completed with minimal effort. If, on the other hand, you invest a lot of mental and emotional energy in complaining and postponing them, that is a boomerang that will come against you. Make lists of these routines. Place them at the moment you have the highest energy, and you will see how in a short time, you will assume them without delay of any kind. And in record time: perhaps in half an hour, you will finish everything that used to overwhelm you for days.
- Experience making decisions. People who postpone usually have difficulties in more than one area of action. If you find it challenging to choose food in a restaurant, try to do it faster: there are no significant problems in those decisions. If you need to reply to a short email, do so instantly. When you receive the invitation to a birthday and recognize that you are not enthusiastic about attending, responding quickly that you will not go, and so, in everything that comes your way, this training is essential to gain confidence in you. You will see that the world does not stop, no matter how much you make those small decisions.
“You do what you can for as long as you can, and when you finally can’t, you do the next best thing. You back up but you don’t give up.” ―Chuck Yeager
- Break complex decisions into smaller tasks. For example, if you want to prepare a thesis for your career, you will necessarily invest many hours studying and researching. So instead of doing it in record time days before the final deadline, divide the process into as many small parts where you have to make decisions (conscious choices) as possible. Thus, you train and, when you least think about it, you will be with your work very advanced.
- Put a percentage of advance when the feeling of wanting to procrastinate appears. Start each task, however small it may be: the first step is already fifty percent of your effort. Then add the additional percentages. Focus on everything you conquered -and not on the stretch you lack- and so, you will see that in a short time of exercising, you will be reaching the goal without pending on the agenda.
- Experiment at home. Find a sector that needs to be tidy, such as your closet, library, or the place for cleaning supplies. Start by ordering just a small space. Observe what your internal sensation looks like as you do it. And advance to the next: I assure you that you can spend a whole day tidying up the house, and you will feel such satisfaction that you will hardly be able to recognize yourself. This happens because you are releasing stagnant energy, inside and outside of you. Imagine what your life would be like if you did this permanently.
- If you quit, resume. Give yourself space for relapses. You may start, leave it, and want to pick it up again later … or when there are not many options left! The important thing is that you do it over and over again.
- Make lists and mark your achievements. As small as they are, it is very inspiring to see the progress. It doesn’t take much detail: just a brief reference to know you’ve done it; This will give you a tremendous burden of your new doing attitude.
“In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing to do, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” – Theodore Roosevelt
- Get enough rest, but don’t kid yourself. Under the excuse of physical exhaustion, many people hide their procrastination. Remember that the best results are obtained only by doing things. If you want to correct your addiction to putting things off, you need to stay in permanent action. So, if one day you seem tired, take a short break, and then do the task with full energy until you finish it—no more excuses.
- Share your achievements. Helping others and asking for assistance to stimulate you is very good not only in the workplace but also in the family and other social spheres.
- Put a touch of fun. Something that personally works for me is to play good music all the time I need to be in action. For example, as I write this article, a song of the moment is playing, which makes my neurons, my brain, my endorphins, my fingers and my creativity more stimulated. These external aids are essential for internal tuning while you train step by step.
- Watch your mouth. It is suggested that you stop talking to yourself in the negative, qualifying yourself and other people in a derogatory way that does not add up. Instead, put on top mental ideas. Put positive, supportive words in your mind that give you enough energy to stop putting things off.
- Avoid distractions and put everything in a process or system. At work or home, you can implement something simple that works for you, and that allows you to have an updated screen of the current status of each action you are taking. Some organizations display maps with three-colour traffic lights to alert when they are at work. This focuses them better on the task and avoids unnecessary dispersion. In your case, get your schedule up to date and respect it, make lists, use the computer, mobile, graphics, reminders in critical places: anything goes.
“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” ―Dale Carnegie
Finally, if you go off track, focus again and again. It reduces the conversations around and everything that, as a trend, distracts you. In this way, the process of stopping procrastination, and achieving in one month, training in one of the most essential skills of human beings: making better and faster decisions will be more fluid.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “You may fall behind, but time will not.” Use the recommendations in this article to avoid postponing what you have to do and to make sure time doesn’t work against you.