Exercise 43 Discourage Procrastination Enhance Action

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How to Beat Procrastination

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Procrastination is a common malady in today's world? Putting things off can become a habit that often involves fears, self-doubts and a low tolerance for the unpleasant. This could later lead to feelings of helplessness, alcoholism, depression or anxiety. Procrastination is not simply laziness, but a complex psychological problem.

First you must observe yourself and realize when you are a procrastinator. Then figure out how and why you keep putting things off ... and off ... and off. Identify the fact that your so-called rational reasons for putting things off are nothing more than excuses. There are the little lies you tell yourself that are really expressions of inner turmoil of two basic types -- a fearful self-doubt and a "discomfort dodging" or a low tolerance for tension and frustration.

If you're a procrastinator, first make a list of all the 'reasons' or excuses you use to put things off. People who say they don't have time are really saying they don't want to make the time. After making your list, carry it with you during the day as a reminder to monitor your own thoughts, and pay attention to those excuses as they occur. Next is action.

Sometimes a project seems so large, it becomes discouraging to think about it, so a decision to start is never made. To correct this, practice little commitments of time toward it. Tell yourself to start the task and work on it for 5 or 10 minutes. At the end of that time period, you can commit yourself to another 5 or 10 minutes, and so on. By tricking your mind in this way, you at least make the first frightening step, and the rest gets easier.

Every part of the task that you get out of the way is one less part that you have to deal with. Get in the habit of doing it now, when you think about it, rather than later. "Don't put off for tomorrow what you can do today." Afterwards, reward yourself with a pleasant task.

Remember every time you act instead of hesitate, it begins to change your attitude little by little into a more positive approach to many other aspects of your life. Don't be afraid of making mistakes, either. Those who don't make mistakes, don't attempt anything. Also, knock off a lot of little jobs first to get your motor started with a sense of task completion; then tackle small parts of the bigger jobs. Change your way of looking at a disagreeable chore to just "something to do" instead of something to like or dislike. To make dull tasks seem exciting, create an enthusiastic air by visualizing a glamorous fantasy in your mind about what you might learn or find con cerning the task ahead.

All these techniques will convert you into a self-actualizing doer and not a procrastinator. Also, don't forget to surround yourself with positive people, or otherwise old habit patterns can reestablish themselves if you allow other procrastinators around you to affect you.

Here are some good points to remember:

1. Stop postponing your life! Define your goals and set priorities. What do you want? What do you need to do to achieve your goals? How long will they take? What is the deadline for each?

2. Get organized! Get clutter out of your life, for it can be a distraction. List your tasks in order of importance and put the distractions at the end of the list. Put a realistic deadline date on each item.

3. Divide large tasks into smaller, manageable chunks. Limit yourself to ONE task at a time to reduce frustration. Delegate if you can - get help if you need it. You don't have to struggle with this all by yourself.

4. Start somewhere! Determine what is the most important task on your list? Divide it up into mini tasks. Take ACTION!

5. Start small. Write down 2 or 3 mini tasks that you can accomplish in just 5 minutes. Do one of them NOW. Cross off the completed task and watch your to-do list shrink. How does it feel to complete a task? Reward yourself afterwards.

6. Schedule time. Allocate a specific amount of time to your tasks and STOP when that time is up. Start with just 5 minutes, then consider another 5 minutes at the end of the first.

7. Use reminders. Keep your tasks visible in front of you. Set up reminders, lists notes, etc. to prompt you into action.

8. Identify your best time. When are you most productive during the day? When do you have the most energy and feel really alert? Use this time for your most important tasks. Use other times during the day for more routine tasks. If you feel an impulse to work on a task, follow it up right now! When you have had enough, STOP.

9. Be accountable. Commit to complete each task by its deadline. Tell yourself or someone else when this will be. Hold yourself accountable for your actions.

10. Self-motivation. There's no time like the present. The sooner you complete a task, the sooner you can play. You don't have to do a task all by yourself. You can ask for help.

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