Getting unstuck – Overcoming Procrastination

Happiness, Lifestyle
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Do you have jobs that you just don’t get round to? Decisions that just don’t get made? Procrastination can stop you enjoying life to the full and living to your potential. Overcome procrastination with these easy to implement strategies.

Should you tell people about your goals?

Telling people about any new goals and resolutions is a two-edged sword. Some people will try to undermine you, but others will support you wholeheartedly. So pick the people that you tell carefully, but do tell some people: a public commitment can really help you to do what you need to do, and keep you focussed when the going gets tough.

Congratulate yourself

A strategy I use is to pat myself on the head (preferably when no one is looking!) whenever I complete something, no matter how small. I don’t do this all the time, but when I’m feeling stressed and overwhelmed I try to do it. It’s amazing how this small gesture, repeated though the day, makes me feel by the end of the day. It helps me to feel less overwhelmed, less stressed and more capable and powerful. A great change of feelings.

Reward yourself

Find simple ways to reward yourself when you do the right thing. Here are some ideas for rewarding yourself that don’t involve eating, drinking alcohol or spending a lot of money.

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Pay a fine if you procrastinate

Robert Middleton of suggests that you pay a fine, if you don’t keep to your commitment. Nothing particularly new about that, but he suggests a great twist – you pay your fine to a group that you disagree with completely. For example, commit yourself to making a donation to a political party you if you don’t keep your resolution.

Backcasting can help procrastination

Sometimes you need to detail the steps needed to achieve your goal. Backcasting can be the best way to do this. Think of the goal and then think of the step before you achieve the goal. Write that down. Now go backwards each time finding the step before, until you are back to today. Now you have a detailed plan of the steps you need to take to get where you want to go. Attach dates to them, put them somewhere prominent, and tick each one off as you achieve it.

Small 5-minute jobs

Keep a list of small 5-minute jobs handy; jobs that you never seem to get round to doing. Then, when you are too tired to tackle big projects or just need an instant boost, tackle one of these small jobs and cross it off the list. The satisfaction of doing this is often out of all proportion to the time taken. That pleasure can lift your spirits and get you motivated for the big tasks again. You may also realise that it often takes less energy to do a niggling job than spend energy continually remembering that you have to do it.

Dealing with too much choice

Sometimes it is difficult to do anything because you have to make decisions and choices first. One of the problems of modern life is that you can often feel overwhelmed by choice to the extent that you do nothing. In these situations it is important to distinguish between important choices and superficial choices. For important choices you need to spend time looking at all the different options, researching possibilities and talking to experts. For less important decisions, the thinking process can be less intense when you recognise that you may make a wrong decision, but in the grand scheme of things, in terms of your whole life, it is not that important. For any decision that you are agonising over, ask yourself: “How important would a wrong decision made now be in 10 years time? The answer will tell you how much time to spend on making the right decision now.

Finally, here’s a great quote from Barbara Kingsolver that’s worth reading every day:

“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for.

And the most you can do is live inside that hope.

Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.”

(c) Jane Thurnell-Read 2018