Updated: Nov 9, 2019
People procrastinate for all kinds of reasons. Little things, big things, never-before-tried things. They don’t want to do whatever they’re facing. They can proffer all kinds of reasons: lack of time, lack of motivation, lack of know-how. Yet a common denominator is frequently fear.
· Fear of not getting it right the first time
· Fear of not knowing how to do something
· Fear of the task taking too long
· Fear of delving into the unknown
· Fear of not wanting to look bad
· Fear of failing
Fear, even of the small niggling type, cripples. It holds you back, making you want to avoid certain situations or tasks. Fear tries to convince you that the worst is going to happen, so it’s best to avoid the thing you are facing. So you tell yourself you’ll do it tomorrow. But that fear and the thing you’re avoiding will still be there tomorrow and the next day and the next, until you do something about it.
Fear promotes procrastination. On the other hand, acknowledging why you’ve put off doing something—the real reason why—is empowering. It enables you to see your situation through a more realistic lens and gives you the courage to act. Once you’ve taken the first step, you often realize the thing you feared doing wasn’t so bad after all.
That’s what a single mom and her young daughter discovered. They were discouraged by the clutter that had somehow overtaken every room in their home. Piles seemed to occupy every counter, corner, closet, table, and chair. Stuff overflowed wherever they looked. Why did they leave the mess? They realized they felt overwhelmed and helpless to even begin cleaning.
That is until a friend suggested trying an eight-minute routine. It went like this: The mom set a timer for eight minutes and the two raced to put items away, laughing the whole time. When the timer shrilled, they stopped. They were done for the day. It didn’t seem like much, but it was fun and short and doable. Each day brought small steps of progress, and as the mess disappeared, they were able to keep it at bay. Action replaced their dread and procrastination. Cleaning wasn’t so hard after all.
The good news for procrastinators is you don’t have to remain stuck in the muck of old habits. Try some of these ideas:
Write down your concerns. Transferring thoughts from your mind onto paper gives your brain breathing space. It allows you to see things more objectively and less emotionally.
Break large tasks into small, actionable steps. Perhaps you’re faced with planning your child’s lessons for the upcoming month. Where do you start? Ask yourself, “What’s the smallest first step I can take to move forward?” That might be allotting a block of time to begin. Or picking one subject to work on. The next step could be writing one week of lessons for that subject in your lesson planner.
Pick a timeframe for each small step—whether it’s 10 minutes or one hour—and stick to it. Set an alarm and stop when your time is up. The alarm makes you more aware of your time parameters and helps you stay focused.
What are you facing that you keep putting off until tomorrow? Take heart and start. You’ll be glad you did.