Wait Not, Want Not
‘I work better under pressure’ is an excuse commonly used by many people to justify why we put projects off until the very last minute. While this may hold true for some, we can’t over look the possibility that we would probably produce better results if we managed our time better and completed task in advance – rushed, subpar work is often the result of pushing these tasks to the back of our mind. And what about the health implications of the stress from working on tight deadlines? The truth of the matter is: yes, most of us procrastinate to some degree. But if your stalling begins to hinder your development and growth, it’s time to do something about it.
What’s The Problem?
Stephanie Moss is a life coach based in Durban who specialises in helping clients get to the root of their inability to reach private and personal goals. She says that most procrastinators agree with the following statement: ‘A part of me wants to get the job done, but another part holds me back. I have no idea why I can’t just do it.’While one part of us knows that tackling the task will bring satisfaction,and lead to feelings of relief and happiness, we’re also aware of the fact that if we fail, we will feel terrible and wish we had never even tried.‘People procrastinate because the goals they set are too big or scary,’says Stephanie. Procrastination is almost aways a symptom of what’s really going on inside of us – we may suffer from low self-esteem or feel apprehensive and anxious about the project, or even life in general.
People procrastinate in different ways. The most common way is by doing other ‘useful’ things – ever found yourself cleaning the fridge when you should really be filing your income tax, or clearing up your desk before settling into your actual work? ‘We convince ourselves that we are being productive; albeit not with the task at hand,’ says Stephanie.We will tell ourselves that disorganisation is distracting and that once we get rid of the clutter, we will be able to work better. Stephanie says that the problem with this kind of diversion is that it usually leaves us feeling exhausted and with less energy to start the task – leading to further postponement.
Stephanie admits that every habit comes with positive reinforcement,even if it is a bad habit such as procrastination. The reward you get from putting something off may be a distraction from worrying about completing the actual task – as self-defeating as that may seem.When we avoid doing a task out of fear of failing and humiliation, we positively support the bad habit of procrastination by blaming lack of time, instead of confronting our weaknesses. ‘Everyone has a need for security and approval, but the only option to keep you from defeat is to knuckle down and get the job done,’ says Stephanie. Finding a way through procrastination is not only better for the short term, but also in the long run, for your self-esteem.
Wait No More
To stop procrastinating, you need to identify the fear that is holding you back. Dig deep and ask yourself what it is about the task that scares you. ‘A job in sales, for instance, may involve picking up the phone and talking to people. When looking at it objectively,a phone call is a minor thing to do.But, subconsciously, there may be angst around what the recipient is going to say,’ says Stephanie. The fear of rejection may make the caller so anxious, it prevents them from making the call at all.‘Aside from fear, we may become quite overwhelmed by the size of the project and the amount of time required to complete it,’ Stephanie says. ‘So we wait, hoping that the problem will sort itself out. Unfortunately,it often gets compounded into an even more difficult situation,with less time to solve it.’
Conquer Your Fears
• Break your tasks into smaller steps. Look at the task as a whole and evaluate how you can divide it into many little parts. A journey starts with a single step.
• Make these steps attainable and realistic. You can make them so small, they appear effortless. This will ensure you take each step, one at a time. It’s better to take 100 small steps and reach your destination, than to attempt one big leap and never summon the courage to do it
• Make sure you are fully prepared. If you need to make a phone call, for example, plan what you would like to say to avoid feeling nervous and insecure. Practise out loud and, if need be, jot down keywords so you don’t forget anything. You can adapt this logic to any task. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
• Adjust your physiology. If you’rehunched over, bring yourself into an upright position and lift your head. The simple act of changing your posture puts you in a more energetic state of mind
.• Visualise a positive outcome. Imagine you have completed the task, and feel the relief and success you will experience afterwards.
• Reward yourself. It can be as simple as having a coffee break after you have cleared your inbox. Also increase the value of the reward with the size of each completed task (budget dependent, of course). Helpful reads18 Minutes: Find your focus, master distraction, and get the right things done By Peter Bregman (Business Plus) Filled with tips on making the best use of your time and avoiding silly distractions, this is a great book for anyone who feels there aren’t enough hours in the day. Peteruses anecdotes from his Harvard Business Review column and makes them more accessible to non-business-minded people. Organize Your Mind Organize Your Life:
Train your brain to get more done in less time By Paul Hammerness and Margaret Moore (Harlequin) Paul believes that the key to a successful life isn’t just about making to-do lists; it’s also in organising your mind to regain control. This read promises to help you complete each task before moving on to another one.168 Hours: You have more time than you think By Laura Vanderkam(Portfolio Hardcover) Between our careers and family life, it’s easy to feel starved for time. Laura’s book will help train you on how to prioritise important projects, cut out the clutter and celebrate more time for yourself.
Useful contact Stephanie Moss031 569 3864 www.nlpdurban.co.za