Well, it’s January again. Time to commemorate another holiday ritual, the making of New Year’s resolutions. There is much encouragement about New Year’s resolutions, yet, if you listen closely, this very healthy exercise is often ridiculed. Perhaps it’s because resolutions don’t have much of a shelf life. Have you made your own personal resolutions or has it simply been easier if you put it off for awhile, maybe even for the whole year? Perhaps you are among those who have simply given it up.
My purpose is to let you know that it’s all wrong to give the resolution a bad rap. Let’s start by instead using the word “goals”. Then figure out what exactly prevents us from keeping our goals? You might recognize it by this common phrase; “I’ll get around to it.” The formal name is Procrastination. It probably comes as no surprise that this “skill” comes quite naturally to many. In fact, you may have practiced it recently. Have you recently found yourself all consumed by something else in order to avoid an unpleasant task you would rather not do? Recognize that you were honing your procrastination “skill”. I blame it on our ancestry, when they had to fight for their survival. Maybe our instincts evolved to save unneeded energy for what might be needed later. Today, though, that extra energy may not be necessary or useful, or perhaps, we just don’t use it to our benefit because we haven’t had to fight for our survival like our ancestors.
Like many words in our English language, the word procrastination comes from two Latin words, “pro” which means forward and “crastinus” which means, “til the next day.” I think we are all familiar with putting things off until the next, or the next day, week, month or year(s). It’s worth noting that the definition doesn’t imply that the task we are putting off is hard or distasteful, it is simply the act of putting off.
What on earth causes us to procrastinate something we want to do or feel we should do? I know the most common reason for me is simply the task I should be doing isn’t much fun and I’d simply rather be doing something, or even, anything else. Sometimes, there’s a task to do, but I really don’t know how to do it. I’m going to have to get some advice or help, etc. and in turn becomes easier to put off. Another reason we procrastinate, is because you might not get the task exactly right and you struggle to meet your high perfectionist standards? Other times, there may be a number of things to do and it is daunting to even know what to do first. Without knowing what to do first, everything gets delayed. This last one may be helped by making a list first, then trying to prioritize it, remembering to be a bit flexible.
Once you decide that you definitely want to do something, here are some tips to wage war against the opponent of efficiency (aka Procrastination). See what ideas feel like a good fit:
1. Reward yourself! This one might appeal to those of you who have the inner child at work. Get the unpleasant task out of the way, then yahoo, something good!
2. Start early. Think about tackling the harder task first thing in the morning, when you have the most energy. That way it’s not hanging over your head the rest of the day. It’s also harder to think of a good excuse first thing in the morning.
3. Breaking it down into smaller tasks is key. We may have to spend more time working at our goal, but believe it or not, this causes the struggle with the task to lessen. By becoming more familiar with it and breaking it down to simpler tasks, it won’t seem so daunting.
4. Ask for help. When procrastination keeps winning, ask for re-enforcements by telling someone. I like to ask my accountability partner to either remind me, or keep me on task.
5. Is it worth putting off? This helps open the mind to the pros and cons of the decision. It may help you see that it isn’t worth putting off. I recently told my grandson, who hates homework and lets it pile up, “it’s like brushing your teeth-do it and get on with your day.” The point is, once you can persuade your brain, it just isn’t worth it, you may well be able to get over the hurdle and get on with it.
6. Visualize the task completed. How will it make you feel once complete? Will you feel great and relieved? How will the task look completed? Now, compare how you feel once the task is complete with how it feels to have it weighing down on you uncomplete. When I get a more challenging task done, sometimes I feel like a huge weight is off my shoulders and mind. Other times I simply enjoy the good feelings of a job well done.
7. Just do it! If it will only take a few minutes, then just do it.
8. Repetition is key. Keep challenging yourself to complete your smaller tasks each day, getting used to this as a routine. Creating a new routine for being more task and goal oriented will make every year’s goal easier.
Use these suggestions to give you a better chance to battle and conquer procrastination. Be victorious in the fight!
Remember should any of your tasks involve your retirement planning, please call or come in for the next step. Of all your goals for the New Year, make retirement planning near the top of your list.