Never do today what you can put off for tomorrow. Better yet, never put off 'til tomorrow what you can avoid altogether!
I don't know who coined these phrases, but they must have been a depressive. The symptoms that we face, such as fatigue and hopelessness, make it so easy to say to ourselves, "I'll just put this off until tomorrow when I feel better". Before we know it, that deadline is creeping up on us and we're starting to panic. What's the best way to deal with panic? Hide your head in the sand and hope it goes away! Not really, but procrastination an easy habit to fall into and as the panic mounts, so does the depression. The more depressed we get, the more we avoid reality.
Why We Procrastinate
Why do we fall into the procrastination trap time after time? Because procrastination becomes a way--no matter how maladaptive-- of coping with the emotions and physical symptoms that accompany depression. It may bring some temporary relief, but we eventually wake up the following day and find that no brownies have dropped in overnight and done our work for us.
Which style of procrastination fits you?
- Organizing thoughts and actions and keeping on track with plans is difficult. (People with ADD/ADHD may fall into this category.)
- Tasks seem overwhelming so it's futile to even try.
- Hostile feelings towards someone cause you to want to punish them by putting things off.
- Routine and schedule causes you to feel rebellious.
- You fear disapproval.
These procrastination styles can overlap in one of four themes:
Self-Doubt - These people feel there are rigid standards about how thing ought to be done and they fear they will fail. They second-guess themselves and delay taking action.
Discomfort Dodging - This person avoids activities that will cause them distress, discomfort or anxiety. Rather ironically, the act of dodging the activity doesn't make it go away so tensions mount because of this avoidance.
Guilt-Driven - The person feels guilt over tasks undone, but rather than correct the original lack of action continues to procrastinate in order to not face up to the guilt feelings.
Habitual - The person has procrastinated so many times, it becomes an ingrained response. The person no longer thinks about why they do it, they feel it's just a part of themselves. It becomes an automatic response to say, "This is too hard", "I'm too tired", or to laugh it off as a character flaw.
Once you recognize your style of procrastination, you can take steps to stop it.
Time Management Tips to Beat Procrastination
One of the most important things you an do for yourself is to get organized. Make lists, take a class in organization, or purchase an organizer. Do whatever works for you. One word of advice: follow the KISS principle (Keep it Simple, Stupid). If your organization system is too complicated, it will become just another task to avoid. Here's my own system. You are welcome to use it if it works for you.
- Make a list of what needs to get done. This can be listed in no particular order and will give you a handle on just what you need to accomplish.
- Prioritize these. My way of doing this is by deadlines. I arrange them in order of when they are due. You may also choose to rank them by how important it is to get them done. For example, paying your bills on time may be more important to you than cleaning out your closets. Do that first.
- Get yourself a calendar with room to write notes in. I personally use a bound notebook and write in dates as I go. I make pages with dates for long-term planning and also keep a separate list that I transfer my short-term goals to.
- Take what's at the top of your priority list and determine how long it will take to accomplish it. If it's a quick task, put that down to be done the current day. If it will take a longer time, divide it into smaller tasks to be spread out over several days. Write this in your calendar with specific dates for accomplishing each. Include your deadline for completion of this task on your calendar as well.
- Keep filling your calendar until you have a time set aside to do each item while still meeting your deadlines. Be careful to not overbook yourself and allow plenty of time for delays. This will allow you to feel confident that you can accomplish all you need to in the time you have. Now you can relax and work on one item at a time without feeling you have to do it all at once.