As she mumbled her apology about the chair again, it hit me... she was in a permanent state of C.H.A.O.S. (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome). She was clearly embarrassed by the appearance of her office -- this lady is a smart, successful professional. Instead of just taking an occasional time out to sort through paperwork, get rid of things she didn't need and do some filing, she had actually rearranged her office space and behavior patterns in order to adapt to her habit of procrastination.
So why do we procrastinate and is it dangerous for our mental well-being? According to Julie Morgenstern, author of "Time Management from the Inside Out", a number of psychological obstacles may be the root of procrastination. While she doesn't claim to be a psychologist, Morenstern says that procrastination may be caused by one or more of the following:
Unclear goals and priorities
A fear of downtime
A fear of failure
A fear of success
A fear of disrupting the status quo
A fear of completion
A need for perfection
A fear of losing creativity
Dr. Linda Sapadin a true clinical psychologist in her book "It's About Time" identifies six types of procrastinators - The Perfectionist, the Dreamer, the Worrier, the Defier, the Crisis-maker and the Overdoer. By taking quizzes, reviewing case studies and implementing Linda Sapadin's clear three-prong program for change you can set action plans to break the procrastination habit.
Listed below are ten tips to eliminate procrastination and C.H.A.O.S. from The Gulas Group and Priority Management Systems Inc. that will assist in breaking the procrastination habits.
1. First, recognize the senselessness of procrastinating. In most cases you still have to do the work.
2. Break down unpleasant jobs into small tasks. Whenever you have a seemingly overwhelming task, divide it up into as many as five or ten-minute "mini-tasks". Put them in order and decide when you'll do each one. For instance, if you are faced with an office clean-up, your plan might say: July 3rd: Sort through and file papers on top of desk; July 10th: Buy new hanging files and plastic file tote; July 12th: Clean out lower file drawers and rearrange into plastic file box; July 15th: Reorganize pencil/supply drawers, etc. It's all about making the job manageable.
3. Take advantage of your moods. If you know you are always tense when sales quotas are due or end of month reports must be turned in, schedule your most difficult tasks for another time. Most people don't plan that far in advance, but if you think about your work world, you will likely find some "down" times each month when you're better able to face the tough things you've been putting off.
4. Get some help -- not necessarily to do the job for you, but to help hold you accountable. Confide in someone you trust that you're having difficulty keeping up and ask her or him to hold you accountable, perhaps just by setting a date to review your progress. Make a bet: "If I get X done by the end of July, you can buy me lunch. If I don't, I'll buy you a treat!"
5. Set and keep deadlines. Most people are pretty good when someone else imposes a deadline -- they work hard to meet the other person's time frame. However, when it comes to setting deadlines for yourself, it's easy to either not do it, or not take it seriously. For just one week try setting deadlines for every single task you put on your to-do list. If you accomplish more this week than last because of this, give yourself a reward!
6. Another form of reward: When you finish a "hard to do" task, reward yourself by doing a small task that seems easy and that you can do quickly. By pairing the tough with the easy, you'll really feel like you're getting a lot done.
7. Make a list of small tasks you can do during you "in-between" times. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that you are so busy with meetings, phone calls, and major projects that you don't have time to do anything. Remember that ten minutes is ten minutes.
8. Some people like to do the worst first. Often if you an accomplish what seems the most tough, the rest of the things on your "to do" list will actually seem refreshing.
9. Estimate how much time each of your "to do's" should take and add a little extra time. Push yourself to accomplish the task in the time frame you set. In most cases, getting a "good job" done on time is better than missing deadlines while you strive for perfection.
10. Just do it!