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Procrastination is one of the major things that drag people from accomplishing their goals and targets. It leaves one full of guilt and self-imposed fear of failure. In her book, “You too Can”, Josephine Mugambi outlines 11 practices that once embraced will help to kick off procrastination.
1. Figure out why you are procrastinating
Search yourself so that you can gain awareness of patterns in your life that keep you procrastinating. Ask yourself what kind of activities you use to distract yourself from getting started on a task. You will find that you waste a large portion of your time on meaningless activities, for the sole purpose of procrastinating instead of getting the task done. Josephine suggests you list down any environmental cues that might interfere with your work; anything from hunger pangs to the phone ringing. After listing down those activities, brainstorm how they can be avoided for example setting your phone.
2. Prioritize and organize your work
This step involves doing one thing at a particular time. Take time to list down all your tasks and sort out those that are important in accomplishing your goals. Josephine emphasizes that the tasks associated with your goal to be given the first priority. Set up a day or two to clean up and organize everything and develop your priority list and then start working. Also, break your goals into sub-goals that are achievable and then focus on each at a time. This will make your task simple and manageable.
3. Be accountable and take the responsibility for your life
Learn to take control of your life by developing the attitude of ‘it’s up to me, if this goal is going to happen’. By doing this, you take responsibility of your actions knowing very well that success or failure is the direct result of what you do or what you don’t do. Make it a habit each and every day to be accountable to yourself by asking yourself whether you have done anything that has created a measurable change toward each goal you set. If not, you’re substituting words for action. You should close this gap by focusing on observable change – not plans, comments, or excuses. Whether it is you really want, measure what you have done toward what you had planned to do to achieve it.
4. Stop thinking and start doing
Your actions are directly controlled by your thoughts, your beliefs, attitudes and feelings. If you believe that a particular action is going to be boring or difficult, your mind will very quickly look for the reasons to prove indeed that it is boring or difficult, and therefore you end up not doing it.
A bit of planning can certainly help you to achieve what you want to achieve. A lot of planning and thinking tends to bring the opposite effect. Procrastinators spend a lot of time thinking and thinking and trying to come up with ‘the perfect plan’. A plan where you don’t have to make mistakes, where you will never be rejected, where there will be no pain or difficulties. Such things of course does not exist. But as long as you work on that plan you can protect yourself. To be an achiever either as an organization, you should never substitute talk for action.
The difference between human beings and animals is the ability to be aware of their thoughts and therefore the ability to make right choices. You will need to develop the habit of assessing your thoughts especially when they are inconsistent with the actions that you must take to move forward with your goals. Search your thoughts and find out why you have certain beliefs, is it related to some emotions? Or is it associated with certain bad experience? Once you get the answers, then you can be in a position to uproot it completely and start progressing towards your goal.
6. Believe in your goals
The extent to which you believe in your goals will determine your ability to kill procrastination. Your actions must be believable to you before they are acceptable to others. You do this by demonstrating the success attitude, in your manner and content of your speech, dressing, grooming, and keeping the company of successful people which gives you a success image. You can demonstrate this image further by visualizing yourself as if you have already achieved your goal.
7. Don’t blow a task out of procrastination
By overthinking and putting things off you are not only trying to protect yourself from pain, but you also make mountains out of molehills. The more hours and days you put something off the worse it grows in your mind. This is because the more you dwell on it, the more it expands in your mind. And since you are putting it off, you are probably thinking about it in a negative way.
8. Take the first step
One of the reasons that procrastinators give is that they do not have all that it takes to start implementing their goals.
Always begin small; even great things began with very small humble way. Do not consider yourself too important to start with small tiny steps. The small little steps open up big opportunities. One major difference between doers and those who don’t is that doers are growing by taking advantage of small opportunities; they therefore remain the same.
You must be willing to begin to do something before you receive the necessary power to do even the most difficult tasks. You don’t know what you can until you can do something. The doing generates power to do.
9. Be decisive
The natural thing is to be a decisive person who takes action to avoid inner conflicts. Taking the bold actions that you have to take, over and over again is what really builds your self-confidence and self-image of you being a results oriented person. When you procrastinate you lower your self-esteem and send signals back to yourself that you are a kind of indecisive person. Making the decision to put something off provides only a temporary feeling of relief. The ability to arrive quickly and effectively at a conclusion is a characteristic of all great leaders. For successful people, wherever an opportunity presents itself they have to decide immediately and their slogan is ‘take it or leave it’! This is a mark of a masterful personality.
10. Face your Fear
Some people put off things just because they fear the associated risk, to make mistakes, or even self-doubt. Since you have been operating at your comfort zone, you will naturally develop the fear of starting something different and this makes you put off any action. Too much action, paired with lack of confidence are total enemies of a grand idea. You will have to face your fear and do it any way.
11. Finish it.
Make sure you finish to the very end whatever you begin no matter how significant the undertaking may be. Nothing is as fatiguing as hanging on an uncompleted task; it leaves you in a sort of negative mood.
One of the most common ways procrastinators sabotage themselves is by jumping to another task whenever their works become difficult. Avoid the temptation to ‘take a break’ when the going gets tough. Instead, think of your end result after you accomplish this task so that you can remain motivated to muscle through. Keep your schedule in mind, and, if necessary, institute a further penalty for distractions within allotted time.
Josephine Mugambi is a scientist holding degrees from the University of Nairobi and Egerton University. She has 10 years working experience as a civil Servant, FAO Consultant and International NGO’s. ‘You too Can’ is one of her publications through which she addresses the society’s untapped potential. You can get this book at your local library.