The definition of procrastination is putting off something that was planned or scheduled. Statistics indicate that most people procrastinate. At least 20 percent of the population calls themselves chronic procrastinators, and according to some researchers, procrastination has more than quadrupled in the last 30 years.
I think that more and more people have become accustomed to procrastination in recent years for the same reasons that fewer men are going to college and fewer young adults are becoming autonomous – very little is expected of them anymore.
When we were in the era of responsibility, obligations were taken seriously. Very few people procrastinated because there were consequences for doing so. However, people today are hardly ever held accountable for anything, especially teens and young adults. It used to be that if you had an 8-to-4 job, you arrived at your desk at 8 ready to work; you weren’t stumbling through the door at 9. A lot of young people don’t get that, and then wonder why they are having such a tough time getting jobs. It’s not just because of the economy – there is simply a lack of respect for young adults in the business world today because they lack commitment, work ethic, diligence, focus, and pride in what they do.
In addition, advances in technology have come at the cost of reducing many people’s effectiveness. Between the TV, Facebook, and the latest Blackberrys and iPads, technology is providing people with constant distractions. And with more lazy, unmotivated people sitting around drooling into screens, it’s no wonder that the procrastination statistics keep going up.
Another contributing factor is that there isn’t a whole lot of parenting going on anymore. Fewer and fewer kids are spending time with Mommy and Daddy at the dinner table discussing their day. Chalk it up to divorce or no parent staying at home, but the outcome is the same: kids get away with murder and there’s no hell to pay. Parents are failing to teach their kids about obligations and responsibilities. A hundred years ago, kids got up at 5 a.m. and did a whole heck of a lot of stuff before they went to school. Nowadays, I have parents calling me up complaining about how they can’t get their kids to get dressed in the morning. It’s ridiculous.
As you can see, people are not born procrastinators; they are formed to be that way. And sadly, when they become chronic procrastinators, the results can be dire. They often experience financial failure or end up dying younger than they should because they don’t bother to go get tests.
If you have a problem with procrastination, here’s what to do:
People procrastinate for all kinds of reasons, but more often than not, I think procrastination is a kind of passive aggressive behavior: “Screw you!” “I don’t have to!” “I don’t want to!” “I don’t feel like it!” So, if you really want to change, stop being hostile and start acting like a responsible person.
Don’t overthink what you have to do or make things too complicated – just get started. It’s funny how something you were initially dreading can all of sudden become easier once you start it. If you want an example of this, just listen to some of the people who call in to my program. They may start off extremely nervous, but once they start talking, all their hesitation goes away.
If you feel overwhelmed by a big project, break it up into smaller chunks. Start with the hardest part first and then take a step back. You’ll likely find that once you’ve finished each smaller task, the bigger project isn’t as difficult as you feared.
If you don’t have the right skills to complete a project, do some research or call someone to help you. YouTube, for example, has a million useful little videos of people explaining how to do all kinds of stuff. I learned how to drill certain jewelry pieces I’ve worked on from watching YouTube videos.
If you don’t have the right tools, find out where you can buy or borrow them.
Set realistic goals. What can you realistically do given your abilities? Ask someone to help pace you.
If you’re easily distracted by clutter, your phone, or your friends, then block out time dedicated to working on what you need to get done. I rarely have my cell phone on me. It certainly frustrates a lot of people who want to get a hold of me at that precise moment, but when I want to sit and deal with something, I cut out the distractions. One of the things you must do in life is prioritize. Do what needs to be done first, not what you wish to do. Always remind yourself of what the highest priority is.
If you are a perfectionist (as I tend to be), you need to learn to control your impulse to be perfect. I remember reading about one culture which purposefully put one tiny mistake in everything they made. I thought that was so clever – what you do doesn’t always have to be perfect to be an expression of you.
Lastly, if you are afraid of failing or taking responsibility, you need to remember that the greatest failure is sitting there like a lump of protoplasm and not trying. Failing is an inevitable part of trying, but failing is not an endpoint – not trying is. Failure is at least a step forward toward success.
Getting yourself organized and putting a stop to your procrastination is pretty simple. Set a reasonable goal, give yourself a time frame, dump the excuses, and figure out a way to hold yourself accountable. In short, just make it happen.