“It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.”― Leonardo da Vinci
This quote speaks to me deeply because there are many times I put something off so long and once I finally get going, adrenaline kicks in. Or, if it’s related to health and wellness, I start to see the fruits of my labor and then don’t want to stop. For example, I’ve been wanting to get up and walk every day for the last year. But, I didn’t do it. I can probably think of a million excuses, but the reality is I was procrastinating on this one simple thing that is really good for me. Now, I just finished week 3 of waking up and walking first thing almost every day and today was the first day I actually woke up before my alarm and ready to go!
The word procrastinate means to put off something INTENTIONALLY.
That word intentional really gets me. It means I literally know that I should be doing something, yet I am choosing not to for whatever reason. Sometimes the reasons are good, but many times they are not. When we look deeper into the origins of the word:
“English speakers borrowed the word in the 16th century from Latin procrastinatus, which itself evolved from the prefix pro-, meaning “forward,” and crastinus, meaning “of tomorrow.” Like its synonyms “delay,” “lag,” “loiter,” “dawdle,” and “dally,” “procrastinate” means to move or act slowly so as to fall behind. It typically implies blameworthy delay especially through laziness or apathy.” – Merriam-Webster
Let’s get one thing clear. Procrastination is not the same as prioritization. Sometimes we have to say no to things in our lives because it’s not a priority for us now. However, if we say yes to something, when we really should have said no, this can cause us to procrastinate. Or, if you’re like me, you hate cleaning the bathroom so I always procrastinate on cleaning day. But once I’m done, I realize it didn’t actually take that long and it looks much nicer!
A useful Ted Talk to watch about procrastination is by Tim Urban. In this video, he describes the mental gymnastics that procrastinators go through to rationalize their behavior. He presents the information with humor and engagement and makes you realize that we all procrastinate on something. So the question is: what are the things you are procrastinating on?
I plan to make a list this week of the things I’ve been procrastinating on that probably won’t take much time to actually just do. It’s been on my mind to call a company about something I need help with and I’ve been delaying because well, you know, being on hold with those customer service lines are not always fun.
Another key point that Tim Urban makes is that there is more mental anguish when we procrastinate on things that don’t have a deadline. If there is a date by which something needs to be accomplished, we can delay starting, but eventually crunch time will come and we get it done. On the flip side, if there is no date looming in front of us, then it can cause a lot of anxiety and depression that we aren’t accomplishing the things we need or want to do.
So based on my own personal experiences, here are 6 tips on things you can do to try and reduce procrastination tendencies.
- Set a deadline
Probably the best thing you can do for yourself is to set a deadline to complete something. Even if it’s self-imposed and not related to work or family. The hard part is sticking with it because it’s sometimes easier to let ourselves down than other people. Ohhhhhh, that’s a good line – remember that! I’ll have to write another blog post about that. There has to be a name for that dilemma.
- Create a routine
Starting a new routine is challenging, but possible. Start small and build up to where you want to be. I’ve been wanting to run every morning, but I’m so out of shape now that starting with walking makes more sense. And I’m proud of today finally waking up early and feeling that sense of wanting to get out of bed and go on a walk.
- Say no when you need to
I recognize that this is easier said than done. However, it is necessary to say no sometimes, especially to things we will end up procrastinating on in the long run and that will take a toll on our mental health.
- Ask for help
Remember, procrastination is INTENTIONALLY delaying the completion of something. If, after a period of time, you realize that you’re not motivated or your schedule is super busy, reach out to someone. Find an accountability partner who you can check in with if you’re trying to build a new habit.
- Daily and weekly goal setting
In order to minimize the likelihood of procrastinating on certain things, make it a habit to check in with your goals on a daily and weekly basis. By keeping your eye on the why you are more likely to stick with what needs to get done. And if something no longer serves you, don’t be afraid to let it go. Perhaps something you’ve been procrastinating on doesn’t actually need to happen. Let it go.
Choose your priorities and focus your time and energy on those things. If you’re not sure, write down everything that you have to do. Then, start rearranging it to fit your reality. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I create this unrealistic lists of things to do and then I feel guilty when I don’t get it all done. I’m literally creating those feelings in my brain because I’m choosing to say that too many things are a priority. One method to use is the Eisenhower Matrix. Other methods involve creating different types of to do lists.
Get out there and reach your dreams!