We all have our procrastination horror stories. Mine almost kept me from graduating college.
It was my responsibility to compile everyone's individual reports into a paper and design a presentation for our exam. I didn't think it would be that intensive, so I waited until the night before. Big mistake.
As I finished the 20-page research paper and put the final touches on the presentation, my computer crashed. Evidently, you can't listen to music, run PowerPoint, edit in Word and check Facebook simultaneously.
My hard drive was fried. It was 11:00 P.M. the night before the big presentation--and the final was worth 50 percent of our grade.
I threw on a pot of coffee and started from scratch. Luckily, I had a lot of the work memorized (having just spent four hours working on it), previously worked for Acura as a sales consultant, and had a supportive girlfriend (now wife) who's a great writer.
Long story short: We got an "A," I never told my group what happened, and I survived my first panic attack.
I got lucky.
From that moment on, I swore that I would never procrastinate again--until the next time. I don't know if it's the rush of meeting a deadline at the final hour or undiagnosed ADHD, but I just can't seem to get a handle on procrastination.
I was reminded of this after reading Jen Sincero's book, You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life. The New York Times bestseller has some great advice on beating self-sabotaging behaviors. Procrastination made the list.
In the book, Sincero offers five tried-and-true pieces of advice:
1. Remember that done is better than perfect.
I'm not a perfectionist. I'd rather get to the point of "good" and just do it. I know that freaks some people out, but I've realized that "perfect" is an ever-receding horizon.
If you're waiting for something to be flawless before you roll it out, then you'll never do it. I don't know who said it first, but there's truth in the saying, "Don't let perfect be the enemy of good."
Instead, Sincero encourages readers to take the plunge and just get started:
"There's no better way to get things done than to already be rolling along--momentum is a wonderful thing, not to mention highly underrated, so get off your a** and get started. NOW!"
2. Notice where you stop.
We all have our momentum killers. Television, social media, and food are three of mine.
Right as I'm getting into the grove, I blow it by adverting my attention to something counterproductive. Or, I intentionally self-sabotage because I don't want to start something I know is going to take time--like research or reading.
Sincero advises her clients to pinpoint the exact moment before they say "screw it" and procrastinate. Once you know the source, you can manage it.
I coax myself into researching by eliminating distractions and time-chunking. I force myself to spend 20 minutes researching then reward myself with a break. So far, it's worked surprisingly well.
3. Make a bet with someone mean.
"Mean" refers to someone who will hold you to it. They can't let you slide--no matter the excuse.
Having an accountability partner has been incredibly effective for me. Letting myself down is one thing, but the fear and embarrassment of disappointing someone else scares me straight.
Sincero also suggests you bet something painful to lose, like money. Fear of failure and fear of losing something you care about can do wonders for your self-discipline.
4. Own it and work with it.
Some of us will always wait until the last available minute. If that's you, Sincero says own it: "Just go to the damn beach already, have a cocktail, and when the pressure's on, get down to business." Quit wasting precious time pretending that you're going to do something when you know it won't happen.
I've ducked out of too many opportunities acting like I was going to get something done only to waste the entire day because my fear of missing out prevented me from focusing. I've stopped kidding myself. Now, I enjoy the moment and buckle down when I need to.
5. Love yourself.
You may be a procrastinator. That doesn't mean you're a lost cause. Embrace your weaknesses, check your pride and ask others for help. Denying our vulnerabilities gives them power.
Eventually, procrastinating will catch up to you. Don't sabotage yourself. Learn what causes you to dilly-dally and implement strategies to prevent it. Your future successful self will thank you.