Looking back through the years, I clearly remember a time in my life when I sabotaged my success by putting things off. I overcame the procrastination syndrome after graduating from college. Numerous nights spent pouring over textbooks in last minute preparation for exams cured me. Never again do I want to experience that kind of desperation. In fact, I am sometimes plagued by dreams where I find myself sitting in my dorm room drinking coffee at 3:00 AM worrying about getting a passing grade as I frantically review my lecture notes.
Occasionally I may slip back into dragging my feet on action items, but for the most part I cured that negative habit. In my coaching practice, I work with clients on making behavioral changes leading to increased productivity.
Why do people procrastinate? There are multiple reasons ranging from fear of failure, or poor time management skills to mistakenly believing you work better under pressure. Sometimes the problem is just plain boredom as in the case of a geology course I was once forced to take. You can relate, right? Being forced to accomplish something in which you have a zero interest level, can cause a delay in getting to end zone.
Did you know that procrastination is bad for your health? Putting things off on a consistent basis can elicit a huge price tag in terms of physical ailments. Recent evidence found procrastinating college students contracted more flu, colds and gastrointestinal problems than those who planned ahead. According to a study done at Carlton University, in Ottawa, Canada, students who put things off were more likely to eat poorly, sleep less, and drink more than students who do homework promptly. Procrastination also results in stress, anxiety and nagging guilt.
Whatever the reason, the good news is procrastination is a behavior, and one that can be changed. In my coaching practice, I work with clients on making behavioral changes leading to increased productivity. If you fall into the category of continual task avoidance, read on.
To change your behavior, start by becoming a master scheduler. Begin with your “to do” list. As soon as a task, like a term paper or important financial report is assigned, relegate it to the master list. Next, schedule it on your calendar. Break the task into smaller parts setting deadlines for each segment.
I highly recommend tying the dreaded task to reward. If you’ve spent the morning doing research for your paper, treat yourself to a special lunch.
Making some immediate progress, even a minimal start, diminishes the dread procrastinators experience. My go to mantra is “beginning is halfway there,” or as Aristotle put it: “Well begun is half done.” Remind yourself a delay in getting started offers temporary relief at best. If you are still dragging your feet, fast forward to the consequences of waiting until the 11th hour.
Gain confidence by starting today. Think of one project you’ve been putting off, perhaps it’s getting rid of all the clutter in your garage. (I hope my husband is reading this.) Set a timer and dedicate one solid hour to the job. When the bell goes off you will be inspired to kick the habit.