Many of us are familiar with the thought, “I can do that later, I have other things I want to do now instead.” It’s quite possible most of us put off something we don’t want to do right now, and for a variety of reasons. Most people know the humorous saying, “Why do now what you can put off until tomorrow” but have you ever really thought about the negative ramifications about your procrastination?
I recently wrote an article on procrastination, so this time I am writing one on, what I call, ‘Anti-Procrastination.’ What I am referring to is doing the exact opposite of what we do when we procrastinate.
Why do we procrastinate?
When we procrastinate we are delaying doing something in a timely manner. Sometimes that is not a bad thing, but many times it quite possibly can be. Unfortunately we may not realize the ‘bad thing’ that it could become until it is too late. In my coaching practice I work with people all the time who complain about their consistent procrastination. They desire to curtail that so they can become more productive and stop feeling, and actually, being behind in their lives. It may take the form of failing to get a school or work project done in a timely manner, or to putting off a conversation or action in a personal situation. Whatever it is, many times the idea of ‘just doing it’ will be the best course of action.
So What is ‘Anti-Procrastination?’
Anti-procrastination is either doing something on time or earlier than expected. This is my way of avoiding procrastination. We can always put something off in our minds until we are in the mood, or all the stars are aligned, or we feel better prepared, or whatever excuse we have composed to justify our immobility. However, where does that lead us? Generally, we wind up with a long list of things that never got done and some of those tasks become urgent and often there is not enough time to do them. Welcome overwhelm and her cousin stress! One solution is to PRE-plan to do things before they become issues. Tasks looming over your head will not cause motivation as much as one thinks – they do however cause stress and anxiety1.
Pushing Past the Hurdles
My trick is to not over-think it. At all. I’m big on making lists of things that need to get done. I don’t want to forget something – and I know myself – I will forget if it isn’t written down. When I plan out the tasks I know need addressing, I have already made the decision those items are important: Today is the day to do them. My mind is set. When I go about my day checking items off my list as complete, the sense of accomplishment is motivating – as it is for most of us. When we feel good about our accomplishments, we tend to feel able to do more and continue the process2. So what happens when we throw a monkey wrench in the mix and avoid a task? (Anyone else imagining screeching wheels on a train track here???). Our momentum stalls, our enthusiasm wanes, and our forward progress, well…doesn’t move forward. We stall.
In past experience, pushing past the hurdles and completing the task without allowing the ‘de-railing thoughts’ to prevail yields wonderful results. It’s a mindset that ‘no matter what’ you will get the task done (barring any serious reason why it should not be done – but we aren’t talking about that here). As soon as we start to think about it, we can sabotage our success. If you have already planned to do it, you have already thought it out and have given yourself permission, not to mention, time to do it. You have determined how, when, and why you are doing that task, so over thinking it will simply stall your engine.
Here’s an example
A client had a small window to get approval for a big project. There were several emails that had to be sent to different people in a specific order. Without the first one sent and approved, the others could not be accomplished. He was worried about the outcome, as so many approvals were needed, so he avoided starting because he was worried about possible rejection along the way. The delay caused more stress and anxiety because he was enumerating all the potential outcomes before he had done item #1. So he sat there wallowing in his false misery becoming paralyzed by unfounded fears that now crept into his mind. These emails were not of wonderful prose, mind you, nor were they beyond his ability in the least, but the procrastination made everything feel bigger and scarier than it was. Eventually he got them all done and got all the approvals but not without overwhelming stress and anxiety, which he later realized, was entirely his own doing. So the next time this situation presented itself, he heeded my advice and just went for it: wrote and sent the first email without hesitating. Not only did he achieve a positive result, but he smiled and laughed about how muc better he felt and how silly it was to procrastinate earlier on. He hadn’t allowed his mind to ‘go down the rabbit hole of justification’ that he typically had in the past. He broke his pattern of procrastination by seeing the positive benefit of ‘anti-procrastination’ and adopted the mindset of the Nike® tagline: “Just Do It!”
Stop giving your mind time to come up with excuses and justification for not doing what you already determined will be done. Plan projects steps and tasks ahead of time – make the commitment to yourself in advance. If you know what to do, how to do it, and have the tools to do it, then what are you waiting for? Seize the moment and get it done because the regret of a missed opportunity you cannot undo is a worse fate. Be an ‘Anti-Procrastinator’ and get tasks done before they become a looming problem that might require more time, more resources, and yield an inferior result.
- Shepherd, J., & Shaughnessy, M. (2018). Procrastination. Salem Press Encyclopedia of Health. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2Zb9grL
- Nunes, J. C., & Dréze, X. (2006). The Endowed Progress Effect: How artificial advancement increases effort. Journal of Consumer Research, 32(4), 504–512. https://doi-org.ezproxy.snhu.edu/10.1086/500480