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Leigh Peele, in her own unique style, tackles the issue of procrastination. As someone who teaches people how to reduce fat, helping others deal with not taking action is one of the single most important tasks she has as coach and trainer. Her advice is sound and relevant to any person procrastinating any task, and that includes you. Here is what Leigh has to say…
You may be thinking, “Great, another article about being productive, when I could be doing something productive!” You might be right, but I hope you come away from this article with a different feeling and insight on procrastination than usual.
“Anyone can do any amount of work providing it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.” – Robert Benchley
I do not speak to you from a balcony of cold judgement my friends. I speak to you from the grips of a 12-step program I am in.
Procrastination runs in my blood. I come from a long line of procrastinators. I am talking about the human race. In truth, procrastinators aren’t born, they are made. That means what is done can be undone, but it will not be easy.
Why we procrastinate
To be clear, there is no definitive answer. In research, we see a lot of speculation, but always interesting discussions, on the psychology of procrastination. Most self-help books speak about perfectionism and anxiety, but in research this is rarely seen when put to the test.
Dr. Piers Steel released an epic research review in 2007 titled – The nature of procrastination: a meta-analytic and theoretical review of quintessential self-regulatory failure.
A bit of a joke to Steel, it took 10 years to finish the study. It is one of the best breakdowns of research in the area of procrastination. It is also my understanding that Dr. Steel will be releasing a book soon through Random House. You can bet I will not delay picking it up.
The research suggests a lot of what was speculative before were merely pieces of the overall puzzle (perhaps the wrong puzzle). There are different types of procrastinators and different avoiding measures. Lastly, there are different reasons.
The prime reason thought by researchers is based upon a very basic concept:
Task VS Reward = Delay.
The technical term is - Temporal Motivation Theory or TMT.
Steel produces a formula based off the classic E=MC2. It factors expectancy for succeeding at a task (E) or self-confidence; the value of completing the task (V); its immediacy or availability (Gamma); and the person’s sensitivity to delay (D) to come up with the desirability of the task (Utility).
I bet you enjoyed that, didn’t you? You don’t need to worry about formula’s here. There appears to be logical (and simple) actions to the problems of procrastination.
I am sure you have notepads and task sheets scarcely jotted with general goals.
“Lose 20 pounds” “Write articles for blog” “Clear inbox”
The first thing you need to do is write down specific goals. If you write down general goals you are putting general reactions into action. If your general reaction is procrastination, you will never achieve your goals in the timely manner you want. Instead of general – be specific.
“Lose 1 pound this week” “Write the first article on my article list by tonight” “Finish my email in 20 minutes”
At first, it might feel like a lot of writing and crossing out of lines. How many of those lines get crossed when you make specific actions, is all that matters.
The best saying I have heard on procrastination is: “You want to keep a clean house? Invite you mother over every week.”
Brilliant. In two sentences, you basically sum up 60% of study conclusions from Dr. Steel’s 30- page review of procrastination. This has nothing to do with me having mom issues…
Putting a time constraint to short goals is the important part, otherwise you just have a bunch of little goals you aren’t likely to complete. Be very specific (but realistic) about your timed goals. If you think you can legitimately complete a task in 30 minutes while giving it your full attention – go for it.
Every month I offer my members a cookbook. Each month it is a different cookbook. Occasionally I might change the item to a program or something they are asking for, but the point is they expect something every month. Their happiness is my happiness. They are technically paying me to get the job done. I don’t have a choice. If I want the members, I create the book.
Tell you subscribers, readers, members or customers you will do something for them on a regular basis. Pick something you know will ultimately benefit them, and perhaps is something you are having a hard time sticking to. Maybe it is weekly emails or a monthly bonus? Whatever it is, say it out loud and say it to them to make yourself accountable.
I am sure you know this. I am sure you by-passed this solution. I know you hear me, but do you really hear me?
I used to get in this trap (and I still have to battle it) of not being able to do my writing until I had the right song playing, after I checked email, facebook, forums, etc. This turned me to reading articles had me wondering the sanity of the world. The next thing I know, two hours have passed. My article on binge eating turned into a rant (I never published) over a Yahoo article.
Before I began my article I felt the weight of the world. I was drained, frustrated, and depressed. This is no way to evoke concentration and inspiration. For the procrastinator, lack of reward leads to defeat. To me, people are the reward and so is change for the better. How am I going to inspire people by reading comments on youtube. This could still be a small problem, but like I said, this is a “12-step program.”
I believe strongly in cognitive patterns shaping our minds and who we are to ourselves. The more you see yourself as a failure – the more you believe it. Sooner or later you start to recycle defeat before you give yourself a fighting chance.
Break the pattern. When you cross something off of your list and achieve a victory against the battle of procrastination – acknowledge it. It doesn’t have to be overly dramatic or time consuming, but it should be a genuine moment. For myself, after I finish a hard task or an article I take 10 minutes and play my guitar or have a play fest with my pup. I make sure to remove myself from the area, take a deep breath and gain a sense of pride for my job well done. After that, I start my next specific goal and try to stay on track.
You should have real down time. You should celebrate the effort and work you make. Your mind and body will get used to the pattern of success and only good things can come from that. For the record, after this article I will grab my guitar, sit next to my dog, and do a rendition of My Morning Jacket’s – One Big Holiday.
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