Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not. – Thomas Huxley
Have you ever noticed how sneaky procrastination can be? It’s incredibly easy to fool ourselves into thinking that we’re being productive, but at the end of the day we find we’ve gotten precious little done.
Have you ever found yourself using avoidance activities like surfing the internet, watching television, doing housework or laundry, or running errands in order to avoid working on something you don’t want to do? For example, you might have a work project due by the end of the week and instead of working on it you keep finding domestic chores that “just can’t wait”.
We all do this to some degree, but it can quickly get out of control if you don’t keep a close eye on it.
Here’s what to do when you find yourself avoiding certain tasks and activities that you really need to complete:
First, becoming aware that you’re avoiding them is most important, and probably the most difficult simply because you may be tempted to rationalize your behavior. One good way to develop a stronger awareness is by monitoring yourself throughout the day. Periodically, stop what you’re doing and ask questions like these: “Is this activity really important to do now? Is there something more important I could or should be doing? Am I using this activity to avoid doing something else?”
When you do catch yourself avoiding certain tasks or activities, question exactly why you’re avoiding them. Do they seem too overwhelming or intimidating? Do they seem boring or unpleasant in some way? Get clear on exactly what’s happening in your head – and avoid rationalizing! Be honest with yourself, even if you have to say, “I just don’t feel like doing something mentally intensive right now because I’m tired.”
Then consider whether you can make the task easier by breaking it down or perhaps delegating parts of it to someone else. For example, if a task is too mentally intensive to do in its entirety, maybe you could do some background work like research or preparation that will make the job less draining later.
Also important is to acknowledge the negative consequences that could result from putting the task off until a later time. Do you have a deadline by which it needs to be complete? Will not doing it create bigger headaches for you? Assess the pros and cons of holding off, and then make a conscious decision about whether to push yourself to do it, or set it aside for another day.
Just by making this a more conscious process, you can overcome the sneakiness of procrastination – and the negative results that usually follow.
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