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Four Procrastination Myths Debunked

Four Procrastination Myths Debunked
    Day 115 is courtesy of Jacqui Brown

    There are less than one hundred days left in 2011.

    If you have a backlog of projects that you meant to work on this year, but which you haven’t gotten around to, it’s very likely that procrastination is the culprit.

    Timothy Pychyl, Ph.D., creator of the popular web site procrastination.ca, is one of the world’s foremost experts on procrastination. Dr. Pychyl defines procrastination as “the needless, often irrational, voluntary delay of an intended task”. That is, you intend to work on a task but you go off and start working on something else which you know is not as important, and which doesn’t need to get done right away.

    There are several myths, lies, or excuses that we use in order to avoid doing the work that needs to be done. A procrastination myth is when we tell ourselves that there’s a valid reason why we’re putting off an important task, when the reality is that it’s just a lame excuse we’re using in order to defer doing work that requires effort and concentration. Four of the most common procrastination myths are laid out and debunked below.

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    Myth Number 1: “I work better under pressure.”

    You have an important report due in two weeks, but instead of getting started on the report you find yourself cleaning out the refrigerator or reorganizing your closet. In order to reduce the dissonance that exists between what you’re doing and what you should be doing, you immediately start rationalizing this behavior. You tell yourself that you’re just one of those people who works better under pressure, so the best thing for you to do is to postpone getting started on the report.

    The reality is that procrastination harms performance. Scrambling around trying to complete projects at the last minute and cramming the night before a big exam is not the most efficient or enjoyable way to get things done. Planning and pacing your projects always gets you better results, and it’s a lot less stressful than constantly pulling all-nighters and handing things in at the last possible moment.

    If you’re convinced that you simply can’t get yourself to start on a task unless you feel the pressure of a looming deadline, then start creating artificial pressure for yourself. There are many ways you can do this. For example, set a timer and tell yourself that you have thirty minutes to write the first paragraph. You can even pretend that it’s a timed essay exam and that at the end of the thirty minutes you have to stop typing, no matter what. Another method you can try is to get an accountability buddy to whom you have to “hand in” regular updates of your work.

    By using artificial pressure you get the best of both worlds. On the one hand, having artificial deadlines forces you to focus all of your attention on the task at hand, and it prevents you from expanding the work needlessly in order to fill the time available for its completion (Parkinson’s Law). On the other hand, this method allows you to give yourself sufficient time to do adequate research, to check your facts and figures, and to edit your work properly.

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    If you’re still not convinced, conduct an experiment. Take two similar tasks: postpone working on one of the tasks until the last possible minute; pace yourself on the other one. Then, compare the two experiences.

    Myth Number 2: “I need to be inspired or to be in the right mood before I can work on this.”

    Do you put off getting started on important tasks until you’re “in the mood” or until inspiration strikes? Telling yourself that you’re waiting for inspiration to strike is procrastination in disguise. Instead of waiting for the ideas to start flowing before you get started on a task, you need to sit down and get to work with or without inspiration. You’ll find that inspiration is a byproduct of having the discipline to do what needs to be done; inspiration comes from doing.

    Stop wasting time waiting for inspiration. As Picasso once said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

    Myth Number 3: “I need to have at least three or four hours of uninterrupted time in order to work on this.”

    In “Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time” Brian Tracy recommends that you think continually of ways to save, schedule, and consolidate large chunks of time. Then, use that time to work on your most important tasks. However, if you don’t have a large chunk of time available to work on an important task, such as a report that’s due in a couple of weeks, it’s a mistake to keep postponing the task until you do have a few hours of uninterrupted time.

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    Instead, you should apply the “Swiss Cheese Approach”. This is a method that was introduced by Alan Lakein in his book, “How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life”. Of course, Swiss cheese is easily recognizable because it’s full of holes. According to Lakein, “the underlying assumption of the Swiss cheese approach is that it is indeed possible to get something started in five minutes or less. And once you’ve started, you’ve given yourself the opportunity to keep going.”

    In a nutshell, the Swiss Cheese Approach consists of the following:

    • Work in small holes of time, such as fifteen minutes, twenty minutes, or half an hour.
    • Poke small holes into a large task on a consistent basis.

    This approach works for the following reasons:

    • Once you get started on a task, it no longer looks as difficult and overwhelming as it did before you got started.
    • By poking small holes in a project you’ll be making constant progress at a good pace.
    • This approach allows you to create a sense of forward momentum.
    • Each time that you get a little bit of the task done, it gives you a feeling of accomplishment.
    • You’re making good use of small pockets of time, instead of wasting that time.

    When you only have fifteen or twenty minutes to work on your project, instead of telling yourself that you’re better off waiting until you have more time to work on it, ask yourself the following questions:

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    • “What can I get done in these fifteen minutes?”
    • “Is there a small segment of the project that I can get started on?”
    • “How can I use this time to poke a small hole into this project?”

    Keep poking holes into the project whenever you have a few minutes to spare, and soon you’ll be surprised to discover that you’re practically done with the project.

    Myth Number 4: “I’ll be able to do a better job tomorrow.”

    We all have a tendency to think that things will be different in the future, even if that future is just tomorrow. In the future we’ll have more time, we’ll be better organized, we’ll have more impulse control, we’ll be better rested and have more energy, and we’ll be better equipped to get things done. Therefore, we keep handing our present-day responsibilities over to this superhero future self.

    The reality is the following:

    • Unless you start taking steps to become more productive and effective today, you’ll be as time-starved tomorrow as you are today.
    • Unless you take steps to become more disciplined today, you’ll be just as undisciplined tomorrow as you are today.
    • Unless you take steps to become more organized today, you’ll be just as disorganized tomorrow as you are today.

    This can be boiled down to the following tried and true adage: don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today.

    Conclusion

    Most of us have probably used one or more of the myths above as a way to excuse ourselves from getting to work on a task that made us feel uncomfortable–because we were afraid of doing a bad job, because the task was complex and we felt overwhelmed, or because there was something else we would rather have been doing. Hopefully, after reading this article, you’ll stop saying these things to yourself when it’s time to get to work on an important task.

    What myths have been sustaining your procrastination habit? Please share in the comments below.

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    Last Updated on October 22, 2018

    Do You Have to Give Everything Up to Get a Fresh Start?

    Do You Have to Give Everything Up to Get a Fresh Start?

    There is a common belief that when you want to embark or start on something new, whether it be a project, a hobby, a job or some big life change, a certain sacrifice must be made. “Out with the old, and in with the new” as they say. It’s almost as if we’re not capable of handling more than what we already have unless we let go of something. But is that really always the case?

    When I was young, I took up violin lessons. I enjoyed playing the violin, but when I saw a friend playing the guitar, I got interested in that and wanted to start playing the guitar. My parents however, insisted that I continue with violin lessons and felt I should give my full attention to one instrument, rather than a few; they didn’t believe in being a Jack of all trades. And so sadly, I never got to take up guitar lessons.

    Afraid of Giving it Up?

    Have you found yourself in a similar circumstance? Perhaps you’re at a crossroad right now, and you’re trying to decide on whether to stay on in your current job, or move on to something completely different.

    You’re not truly doing something you love or are passionate about, and so you want to make that change… but it’s a risky plunge.

    You’re going to have to sacrifice everything that you’ve worked for over the years. You’re going to have to say goodbye to that big salary, the benefits that comes with the job, and you’re going to have to adjust to the changes.

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    Thinking of all that is already detering you from stepping out to take that plunge, isn’t it?

    Or maybe you have many responsibilities in life and little time for yourself. You have a spouse and children to take care of, maybe you’ve even got aging parents to think of.

    At work, you’ve got subordinates waiting on you for advice. As a leader, you have to manage the team. You’ve got conference calls in different time zones to take, business trips to make, decisions to execute.

    You have a lot on your plate, and you wish you could just set aside some time to enjoy the pleasures in life. Golf more, take the kids out more, go on vacations more.

    Sure, if you wanted all that time, you could take on a lower paying job that would require less of your time. But that would mean a big pay cut and less comfort in your life. If not, you’ll just have to wait till retirement.

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    Play It Safe and Regret It Later

    In these situations, it usually feels like an all or nothing approach. And, it then becomes the ‘smart’ thing to just ignore the challenge and stay put. Unless you’re overly confident that things are going to work out, or that you have a back up plan in place, most people never truly dare to take on new opportunities after a certain age or stage in life for fear of losing out, falling behind or having to give up whatever it is that they’ve already accomplished thus far.

    But this is also where many individuals end up feeling regret much later on in life, perhaps as they approach retirement and have a sense of unfulfillment. There is an emptiness or a lack that they start feeling because they never answered their ‘calling’ or satisfied their heart’s desires. You may end up feeling short changed and unhappy with how things have turned out.

    Most people end up feeling more bitter over the regrets of not having done or tried something, rather than in the mistakes they made when they tried something. It’s always the ‘what ifs’ that will go on to haunt you.

    No Sacrifice Needed!

    The good news is, you don’t actually have to make such a big sacrifice when it comes to change! You can carry on with your existing way of life, your job or your responsibilities while changing or doing something new.

    It’s really not that hard because everything that you do in life, whether it’s your career, relationships or even health, are driven by 7 Cornerstone Skills. These are 7 qualities that if you have them, can make you excel at anything. And we already have most, if not all, of these 7 Cornerstone Skills; we just don’t always know how to use them to the best of our abilities.

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    Unfortunately, some of us may not even know the importance of these Cornerstone Skills, and how just sharpening one skill can significantly improve the wellbeing of your life.

    If you’re that busy professional with far too much on your plate, thinking there’s nothing you can do to lighten the weight so that you can breathe a little and have time to enjoy life, then think again.

    Because I can show you some proven techniques that will improve your Focus significantly, and the way you manage your Time. You’ll end up investing in more time, than spending time unnecessarily, thus giving you the ability to enjoy some of that time for yourself.

    By learning to Learn again, you’ll be able to grasp knowledge a lot quicker, allowing you to manage your responsibilities in a smart manner.

    These are just 3 of the 7 Cornerstone Skills that I’ve mentioned. By harnessing the potential of all 7, you will realize that if you truly want to achieve a certain goal or ambition, you need not worry about having to trade off a certain aspect of your life.  Instead, you’ll be able to work around things, or improve things even faster because of the skills that you’ve now enhanced from understanding how these 7 Cornerstone Skills work together.

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    Making a life improvement, career switch or new goal pursuit can easily happen without risky trade-offs once you know how to harness your Cornerstone Skills into your existing life.

    Ready to learn more about the 7 Cornerstone Skills and find out why they’re so important? Subscribe to our newsletter today and begin making that change you’ve been wanting to, without sacrifices!

    Featured photo credit: Martha Dominguez de Gouveia via unsplash.com

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