How To Overcome Procrastination

By Jennifer Blanchard

How are those New Year’s Goals going? Have you given some time to thinking about what you want in 2009?

One thing many of you probably have in mind for this year is overcoming your procrastination. So this is one post out of many to come in the months following that will begin to explore what procrastination is, why it happens to you and how you can overcome it.

Personal development blogger and author, Steve Pavlina, explains in his article, Overcoming Procrastination, that there are 4 root causes of procrastination:

    1. Thinking you absolutely have to do something–“When you tell yourself that you have to do something, you’re implying that you’re being forced to do it, so you’ll automatically feel a sense of resentment and rebellion,” Pavlina says. “Procrastination kicks in as a defense mechanism to keep you away from this pain. If the task you are putting off has a real deadline, then when the deadline gets very close, the sense of pain associated with the task becomes overridden by the much greater sense of pain if you don’t get started immediately.”Pavlina says that the best way to overcome this mental block is to realize and accept that you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. “Even though there may be serious consequences, you are always free to choose,” he says. “No one is forcing you to run your business the way you do. All the decisions you’ve made along the way have brought you to where you are today. If you don’t like where you’ve ended up, you’re free to start making different decisions, and new results will follow.”Overcome it: Choose projects to undertake in 2009 that you want to undertake. Choose something that inspires you or something that you’re really passionate about. (And if you’re having a difficult time figuring out what you want, do what I do, pretend today is your last day on earth–what would you regret not having done? These are the things you need to be pursuing now!)
    2. Thinking of the project as a whole–“Thinking of a task as one big whole that you have to complete will virtually ensure that you put it off,” Pavlina says. “When you focus on the idea of finishing a task where you can’t even clearly envision all the steps that will lead to completion, you create a feeling of overwhelm. You then associate this painful feeling to the task and delay as long as possible. If you say to yourself, ‘I’ve got to do my taxes today,’ or ‘I must complete this report,’ you’re very likely to feel overwhelmed and put the task off.”

Overcome it: Focus on one small piece of the overall task at a time. By doing this, you’ll complete the task in steps, which will make it easier for you to keep motivated.

  1. Being a perfectionist–Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons people procrastinate. They get so worried and worked up about wanting something to be perfect that they end up not even working on it for fear it will come out flawed.”Thinking that you must do the job perfectly the first try will likely prevent you from ever getting started,” he says. “Believing that you must do something perfectly is a recipe for stress, and you’ll associate that stress with the task and thus condition yourself to avoid it. You then end up putting the task off to the last possible minute, so that you finally have a way out of this trap. Now there isn’t enough time to do the job perfectly, so you’re off the hook because you can tell yourself that you could have been perfect if you only had more time. But if you have no specific deadline for a task, perfectionism can cause you to delay indefinitely.”Overcome it: Allow yourself to be human. Humans are not perfect; they make mistakes. That is part of what is so beautiful about life–you get important (sometimes life-changing) lessons from every experience you have, every mistake you make.
  2. Thinking that completing the task-at-hand will deprive you of fun–“This means you believe that undertaking a project will offset much of the pleasure in your life,” Pavlina says. “In order to complete this project, will you have to put the rest of your life on hold? Do you tell yourself that you will have to go into seclusion, work long hours, never see your family, and have no time for fun? That’s not likely to be very motivating, yet this is what many people do when trying to push themselves into action. Picturing an extended period of working long hours in solitude with no time for fun is a great way to guarantee procrastination.”Overcome it: Plan out your fun activities and schedule your work/tasks around them. By doing this, you’re making sure you have plenty of time for the activities you love to do (the activities where you usually don’t procrastinate). Then work/tasks won’t feel so overwhelming because you won’t feel like all you’ll be doing is working/completing tasks.

For more details on each of these root causes of procrastination and more tips for overcoming them, check out Pavlina’s article.

So for 2009, look at overcoming writing procrastination as small hurdles to jump, rather than as a huge thing you need to overcome.

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