You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. -Martin Luther King Jr.
One damaging aspect of procrastination is the way it tends to snowball and build a chronic sense of stagnation and inertia in your life. It usually starts innocently enough: you try to avoid doing one thing that feels intimidating or unpleasant, and before you know it you’re avoiding even things you want to do but feel too frightened to face. If this trend continues long enough, your entire life can become extremely messy and complex.
When you consider that one of the biggest causes of procrastination is the perception that a task is too big or difficult to handle, it’s easy to see why you would want to put it off. Few people actually enjoy being challenged, so it seems easier to keep putting it off until you feel better able to handle it in the future.
There’s a great way to handle this type of procrastination, and that is by changing your perspective to one that is more manageable. Rather than trying to psyche yourself up to tackle a big project or task all at once, attack it in bite-sized pieces.
As an example, let’s use organization. Imagine that your home is a terrible mess, completely disorganized with big piles of clutter all over the place. It seems like an impossible challenge to get it all straightened out, so you keep procrastinating. To make matters worse, all of the clutter makes you feel overwhelmed and scattered, which adds to the illusion that you can’t handle the task of getting organized – which causes you to procrastinate even more! It becomes a big, vicious cycle that will continue until you take control of it.
Rather than trying to overcome your fear and push yourself to tackle such a huge job, start with one drawer, one closet, or any small section. This more focused approach usually works like a charm because it’s hard to get overwhelmed by such a tiny chore, so you find your tendency to procrastinate disappears for a short time, enabling you to make some progress.
Then, simply keep the process going! Each day do a little more, and work your way through small sections of the larger task. This is very important – you can’t make a little progress only once in a while because nothing will change over the long-term. And if you don’t see consistent progress, you probably won’t continue putting in the effort.
If you instead do a little bit each day, you’ll begin to notice the positive results piling up. Before you know it, you’re feeling more in control of your circumstances and you’re not procrastinating nearly as much as you did before.
Once you’ve completed a larger task, then you can maintain it in the same way you resolved it – little by little, day by day!
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