Much of our productive life seems to be a struggle against procrastination. But don’t let that fact keep you from trying to overcome it. There is good news. According to Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 hour rule“ described in his book, Outliers, we should all reach the 10,000 hour quota of practicing against procrastination sometime in our adult life. After those 10,000 hours of practice, you will have acquired the expertise to permanently put procrastination behind you.
Procrastination Fosters Low Self-Esteem
One of the symptoms of procrastination is self-loathing. These paralyzing thoughts can cause one to spiral down into even more procrastination and self-loathing. Sometimes the only way out of this funk is to build energy with misplaced anger or defensiveness towards others. But anger is always a secondary emotion of the true cause. Though this angry state of mind may give you energy, it often heightens or extends the problem further. And as for the onlooker, we’re not fooled; no matter how emphatically stated. There’s nothing worse than a self-righteous procrastinator, except maybe a recent ex-cigarette smoker.
Break the Cycle with Small Achievable Goals
Before the demeaning self-talk of procrastination begins, give yourself a pass. Instead, talk yourself up. Forgive yourself the late start. Doing this will lighten your outlook and make it easier to start anew.
Here are some tips on how to tackle a task you would rather put off:
- Use the 5-minute rule. The first 5 minutes of anything is the hardest. Set a goal of doing whatever it is you would otherwise avoid, but only do it for five minutes. If after five minutes it’s so horrible that you must stop, you are free to do so.
- Make bite size tasks. I live by the words of an old African proverb, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
- Tackle your hardest tasks at peak times. My best time is in the mornings. I never schedule a meeting in the morning. That is when I do my brain work.
- Make a “To Do” list. If it’s overwhelming, prioritize the tasks using Eisenhower’s Important/Urgent Principles.
- Acknowledge your accomplishments, which can be as easy as marking it off the list. If you do something extra in your day, add it to your list so you can mark it off, too. Ah, satisfaction.
- If it is a big project on your “To Do” list, set yourself time-bound goals for specific tasks.
- Lighten your outlook by using the affirmation: “Life is unfinished.”
When it comes to procrastination, own it. Keep your chin up and remember practice makes perfect. Remember to give yourself a break. Implement the 5-minute rule when tackling undesirable tasks. Most of all, find comfort in knowing that, like acne, you will eventually outgrow procrastination … or at least learn to live with it.