Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Procrastinating? The Time To Act Is Now!

The deadline for "Time Management Strategies That Will Make Your Life Easier" is Wednesday, September 1.  This workshop is a must-attend event. You can register by visiting the sidebar.

After you finish registering, let's take a minute and talk about procrastination.

Registered? OK, let's talk.

There are many reasons why people put things off. According to Dr. Linda Sapadin, author of It's About Time, there are six styles of procrastination. These styles are: "The Perfectionist," "The Crisis-Maker," "The Dreamer," "The Defier," "The Worrier," and "The Overdoer." Typically people have two styles of procrastination - a major and a minor style. Dr. Sapadin's book includes self-assessment questionnaires that will help the reader ascertain her major and minor styles. To overcome procrastination use specific strategies that address specific styles.

I won't cover all of the styles now. Instead I will focus on "The Perfectionist Procrastinator" because it is the most frequent style of procrastination that I encounter. Some of the Perfectionist Procrastinator's traits are: gets caught up in the details that no one else cares about, has difficulty initiating or completing projects because they just don't live up to her standards, is critical of her accomplishments, has a hard time delegating because the tasks have to be "done a certain way," and is upset if she doesn't do something as well as her peers.

One of my client's came up with a brilliant analogy on how the Perfectionist Procrastinator's style wastes time:  time is spent putting one's ducks in a row at the expense of getting the ducks to march! Moving the ducks is the goal, but the goal was lost by hyper-focusing on the formation of the ducks.

Some of the ways I see the Perfectionist Procrastinator style at work are:
  • Not filing papers because the client might want to change the structure of the filing system later (meanwhile the papers stack up),
  • Not using help on projects because "it's faster if I do it myself" or the help just doesn't understand how important it is to do things a certain way (meanwhile the project is stalled),
  • Spends hours setting up a project notebook which is intended to help manage tasks and projects and as a result has little time to work on the project,
  • Does not start a term paper until every little fact on the subject is known (meanwhile the due date quickly approaches and pasts).
Overcoming procrastination, regardless of the style, requires changing the way one thinks, speaks and acts. Expect to spend a minimum of six weeks of consistent effort in order to see meaningful changes. Expect a rocky road to change. Why? Mistakes will be made. Strategies will be temporarily forgotten. Giving up might seem more appealing than persevering.  But what is gained through perseverance is immense - being more accepting of one's self, being more responsive, being more flexible, being more relaxed, and being more effective.

Dr. Sapadin offers several ways to change the way one thinks, speaks and acts. Some of her suggestions are
1) Acknowledge that perfectionism is the problem and take ownership of it.
2) Focus on what's realistic rather than what's ideal and be mindful of the resources - and the amount of time is a resource - that are available.
3) Let go of the "all or nothing" thinking and explore flexibility.
4) Change your language: replace "should" with "could," "have to" with "want to," and "must" with "choose to."
5) Set up time limits for your tasks and use a timer or a buddy to help you respect the limits.
6) Focus on doing just a few important things each day rather than an endless list of things.
7) Make one deliberate mistake each day.
8) Focus on "being" instead of "doing." Live life.

Point eight is my my favorite because living life to its fullest really is the goal.

I recommend reading Dr. Sapadin's insightful book.  It is available on Amazon

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