|Published by Kathy Paauw
Certified Business & Personal Coach
|Paauwer Tools is a Monthly Ezine
In honor of National Procrastination Week (the first week in March) and March Forth Day (on March 4th, of course), I dedicate my March issue of Paauwer Tools to the subject of procrastination. Why? Because this single habit is the root of so many of the problems that plague all of us at one time or another – challenges with managing our time, relationships, projects, and information.
Procrastination is doing low-priority tasks and activities instead of the high-priority ones which so often contribute the most to our success. For some, procrastination becomes a harmful habit which impedes personal and professional development.
If procrastination is so harmful, why do we do it? We tend to put off doing things for the following reasons:
When we don’t want to do something that is unpleasant or difficult, we find less important things to do that will keep us “busy” so we have an excuse for why we didn’t get around to it. But putting something off does not make it go away, and postponing it often just makes it worse. As someone once said, “Killing time murders opportunities.”
We’ve just completed the second month of the year, and we have ten more months to go. It’s not too late for rededicating yourself to that New Year’s resolution! I’ll share a key to success that I’ve learned from my own life experiences...
If you want to make big changes in your life, start by making small ones.
What small change have you made recently that yielded positive results for you? By thinking about what is working, you are focusing on the positive. I wrote more about this in last month’s newsletter. Remember that we attract whatever we choose to give our attention to -- whether wanted or unwanted. When we focus on what we want, we are more likely to attract it into our lives.
Unlike a long list of unrealistic New Year’s resolutions that usually get broken before the end of January, small changes can create a ripple effect of another small change, followed by another. In other words, small changes can lead to other related changes. Next thing you know, you’ve generated an unstoppable tidal wave!
If you have not set a New Year’s resolution for yourself, or if you’ve already abandoned the resolutions you set in January, it’s not too late to start fresh now. Ask yourself this question:
What’s one thing that, if you did consistently, would make the greatest positive difference in your life?
I asked a client (I'll call her Kate) this question a couple of years ago during a coaching call. Her initial response was that she wanted to start taking the train to her downtown office instead of driving her car in horrible rush-hour traffic. But Kate said she could not do that because she often needed the car to get to meetings during her workday. I asked her if there were other means of transportation available to her (subway, taxi, etc.) on days she had appointments that were not walking distance from her office.
Here are some of the benefits Kate experienced by deciding to take the train to work instead of driving:
I could keep listing the effects this one change had on Kate's life. It's a perfect example of the ripple effect in action -- all of this by making one change, which led to another, and another.
Remember that one of the key reasons many people procrastinate is because something is difficult or complex. In other words, it feels too big to know where or how to begin. Even the biggest projects are really just a series of small ones. I often ask my clients, “How do you eat an elephant?” … One bite at a time!
Once you break a project into bite-size pieces, determine when you want to have it completed by, and then create a timeline with benchmarks for each bite of the project. Make it as quantifiable as possible, by using numbers (make five calls daily vs. make more calls daily) and dates or deadlines. Then build in some accountability by telling someone else about your intention. Keep your intentions in written form in front of you so you can keep re-focusing on them when you get off track. Then carve out protected time on your calendar to allow time to complete the tasks you've identified.
My daughter is a senior in high school, and she has been preparing for college since last May, along with the assistance of an excellent College Planning Coach, whom she met with weekly by phone. My husband and I are so grateful that someone else was able to help her navigate through this process and hold her accountable to the timeline they created. The whole process is quite a responsibility for an 18-year-old to undertake, even with assistance!
I’ll use this college planning “project” as an example of how to eat an elephant. Although the sample timeline below does not contain every step involved, it’s enough to demonstrate how the process works. Final deadlines or completion dates are noted.
Project Name: Gaining Admission to the College of my Dreams
Here’s a simple three-step process for you to try:
As you focus on one bite at a time, you’ll be amazed at how this simple three-step process can get you unstuck and along your way with an important project you’ve been avoiding.
For more articles about overcoming procrastination, visit my newsletter articles from previous years: