Do you find yourself putting off today and then just not bothering tomorrow? Do you find yourself falling behind due dates and then feeling very guilty afterwards? Procrastination is a common phenomenon that has a fairly standard pattern. Due to certain assumptions or unrealistic rules we have for ourselves (such as fear of failure, believing we don’t have enough energy to complete tasks, experiencing discomfort when we think of the tasks ahead) we set up excuses for why we cannot start our tasks and then engage in activities to either distract us or delay us from making a start. We then experience guilt, and start to feel like there is not point to trying. This then further increases the discomfort and reinforces the belief that the task really is too big an obstacle to overcome. Procrastination starts like a small pebble that lands up rolling down a hill of time and unfinished business which ends up looking like a huge boulder to move. The trick is to make small but effective changes at various points in the cycle so that you don’t allow the downward tumble to become overwhelming. One trick to helping you feel like you are making some movement is to break up the tasks into 10 to 15 minute chunks at a time. You might also decided to attack the middle of the task, rather than start at the beginning. You might try backward planning instead of forward planning. That is, list out the steps you need to take towards completion, but begin at the endpoint. Then reward each step you take towards starting, not just leaving the rewards for the big finish at the end. Talking things through with a psychologist can also help to uncover some of the self-sabotaging thoughts you might have about your ability to start or finish things, and to work a way to fuel that all important motivation.
Valerie Ling, MClin Psych, BA(Hons), MAPS, Clinical Psychologist has a passion for helping people find their voice and continue to write their life’s story. Committed to prevent burnout and empowering individuals to life an effective life, she is the Director and Founder of The Centre For Effective Living.