It’s that time of year: If procrastination had a season, no doubt it would be the months before income taxes are due. Though some people claim to work better under pressure, procrastination – resistance to taking action – is an insidious drain of psychic energy: somewhere in your mind is the awareness that you are supposed to be doing something else and, like a monkey on your back, it prevents you from focusing fully on whatever you’re actually doing.
Whether it’s making a call to an unpleasant client, writing a monthly report, or starting a diet, here are three ways to tweak your perception so you can get to the start, and finish, more quickly and efficiently.
One reason I think we’re so reluctant to get started on unpleasant stuff is because we think that once we start, that feeling of resistance is only going to get stronger each step of the way. But that’s not the case. Let’s say you have a long list of calls to make. Once you break through the inertia and make the first two or three calls, it doesn’t get cumulatively harder with each call. Instead, momentum kicks in, resistance fades and, in some cases (careful!), you may actually start to enjoy the process. Focus on breaking through the resistance to take just that first step.
2. Anticipate resistance. Some activities (like brushing your teeth) become an easy habit; others (like waking up early if you’re a night owl) don’t. Just because you do something regularly, don’t assume that it should get “easier” – you will only compound the inertia because now, in addition to the push-back of “I don’t wanna,” there is the feeling of inadequacy that, after all this time, you are still struggling with this particular resistance. Rather than expecting the resistance to go away, focus on how to break through it.
3. Get a strategy. By now you know what little tricks you use to procrastinate and resist the inevitable: hitting the snooze button, checking out celebrity picks on iTunes (uhem), cleaning out the refrigerator. Give up the fantasy that you will eventually just “feel like it” and pro-actively create a strategy that anticipates and short-circuits resistance. Reward yourself for taking action (yes, now you can check out celebrity picks on iTunes). Set a time limit for how long you have to do something. Or pair a “pleasant thing” with an “unpleasant thing” (Grey’s Anatomy with stretching, for example, or Jolly Ranchers with filing tax returns).