Confessions from A Reformed Procrastinator

Seize The Day Concept
The bumper sticker I encountered this morning had a sobering effect on me. It read, “A year from now you may wish you had started today.” Definitely an effective wake-up call for procrastinators.

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.
Girl with stack color book .

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.

Boycott Your Inner Critic

believe in yourself
Recently I interviewed a young man in his early 30’s who was auditioning for a local talent show. He told me for the past seven years he dreamt of mustering up enough courage attend the try-outs. I asked him what provided the impetus to act on this dream. Flashing a wise grin he stated he finally started believing in himself. I heartily applauded that positive statement. Putting yourself out there takes a major dose of self-belief.

If you visit my office, you will notice a large sign that simply states: Believe. I’ve hung it on the wall to remind me and my clients to stop doubting. Too often we give in to self sabotage.
Believe
So how do we get beyond our internal negative thoughts? Our 30 something entertainer used a simple technique very powerful in developing and maintaining self esteem. He stopped listening to his nagging inner critic. We all have one. I’ve even given mine a name: Stormy. From time to time my gremlin swoops in over-stocked with gloom and doom, always predicting failure.
crazy monster
I’ve learned to recognize the negative voice in my head and send that bully packing. Like Stormy, all inner gremlins are fear based. They thrive on status quo wanting nothing to do with progress and change.

Successful people possess a commonality regarding belief. They have learned to ignore the critics in their head and staunchly refuse to let an ounce of doubt enter the picture. My six year old niece, Alina, is the poster child for believing she is capable of anything.
Child superhero portrait
The giant-sized moxie in her pint-sized package is most impressive. I’m certain when Alina’s gremlin comes calling she just bursts out in fits of giggles thinking, don’t be silly, of course I can do that.

Whether you’re six or ninety-six, if you are auditioning for a Broadway musical or interviewing for a job as design engineer, the key to accomplishing your dreams is confidence. Internal and external critics cannot drag you down without your consent. You are in control. When your gremlin tries to dissuade you from accomplishing your dreams, remember the sage advice from one of the masters, Vincent Van Gogh, “If you hear a voice within you say you can’t paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”

Getting ready to put yourself out there and strut your stuff? I applaud you. Begin by flexing your self esteem muscle. Then wear your confidence like armor and rock it!