For years I have considered myself a procrastinator. I am always full of ideas; plans and goals but seem to lack the initiative to actually get them off the ground.
I first learnt the word at the ripe old age of 19, when I was living and working in Toronto. I was working at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club as part of my 6-month work placement during my higher education. In the informal dining area we served a dish called `The Procrastinators Breakfast’. I had to look it up to understand what it meant and very quickly self-diagnosed myself as suffering from this condition. As if to prove my point, I didn’t make it up the CN Tower or to the Skydome, until my very last week in the city!
In my last blog, `Beating the Post Holiday Blues’, I mentioned my nemesis being the dreaded P word. In fact, when I researched our website for other references using the P word, I got 2 results, both from my own blogs. I definitely have a thing about it!
Nemesis is actually a strong word when you think about it. It is described as being the downfall, undoing, ruin, ruination and destruction. Does this really apply to me? Of course not! We are our own worst critic. When I actually stop and think about my lifetime achievements, I actually feel proud of what I have done. As I grow older, I find it easier to learn and move on from my mistakes. Sometimes, I am simply too hard on myself.
Self-proclaiming myself as a procrastinator is giving me an excuse not to do things, justifying my lack of action due to my nemesis. I am convincing myself that I have hit a wall and I am not in control of my own motivation.
However, when I delve into my own psyche, I realise that I’m not really a full-time procrastinator. Having recently joined the Positive Psychology Team, I have had to meet a monthly deadline for writing my blog. Writing is a new challenge for me in itself, let alone around a subject I have never studied before. I am learning so much about both the subject and writing. Not really the markings of a procrastinator.
On reflection, I have realised that I need to change my perception of the word procrastination and see it as being something positive when used wisely. In his book, `Every Day is Game Day’, author Tim Enochs states that procrastination is defined as “the space in time between inspiration and implementation”. A light bulb moment for me!
I am filled with inspiration and have always had a tendency to want to run before I can walk. I often find myself wanting to achieve too many different things at the same time. Seeing procrastination as a friend, I finally understand that I do it, to allow myself to slow down and focus my energies in a more constructive manner. It is time for me to learn effective goal setting. If I am genuinely putting things off, then maybe I don’t actually want to do them in the first place. It’s OK to admit this and from now on I give myself permission to do this. Another consideration is that it may simply not be the right time to do something and that it’s OK to park an idea or project for the time being. They say that comedy is all about timing. I think this is also true about opportunity.
Overcoming Genuine Procrastination
So I am not a procrastinator by title. However, with the best will in the world, it will affect me as I work on the projects in my life. So how can I overcome it’s periodic appearance?
Italian Economist, Vilfredo Pareto in 1895, discovered the 80/20 rule. 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort. That’s a great starting point for focussing your workload and goal setting. Start with the things that will have the biggest impact. Learn to break things down into sizeable chunks and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
It is also essential to remember that whilst goals are set in stone, plans should be set in sand. Today’s sat nav apps and systems highlight this perfectly. A journey is planned from A to B. A route is created but changed along the way to account for traffic, road works, accidents etc. The destination is reached but the plans to get there change along the way. Work completed can always be revised or changed completely.
Last year I read a book by Jeff Olson named `The Slight Edge’. This is a book that I will be rereading for years to come. It is an invaluable tool for me to deal with procrastination when it does hit me. Essentially, what Jeff says is that many goals and tasks in life are easy to achieve (do) but also easy not to achieve. As an example, he talks about 10 minutes of exercise not having any real impact on your health today. However, 10 minutes of daily exercise will show results over a period of 30 days, 3 months, 6 months, a year and so on. 10 minutes a day is easy to do but also very easy not to do. This is often referred to as the compound effect with the world of entrepreneurialism and personal development.
At the time of reading the book, I made vast improvements to my daily routine, exercising and eating well. The results were fantastic. Then the summer came to an end and old habits returned. I started to blame my nemesis as the excuse and I am back to square one. It’s time to pick up the book again and see procrastination as my friend. I choose my friends and I only want positive ones in my life.
About the author: Stuart Dickson’s passion for personal development began in September 2013, when he joined a Network Marketing Company. Part of his development is increasing his spirituality and the many ways of doing this. His first blog, Happy Monday People was born from a project that came about from his personal development journeys facebook.com/Happylifepeople
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