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Procrastination Help!

Procrastination is tough. Here are seven tips to help you when you feel like screaming ‘Procrastination, Help!’.

When I was a kid, the card shops used to sell a “round tuit” – for all those jobs you’ll do when you need to get a-“round tuit”. I thought it was such a laugh. Maybe they still sell them. Maybe you need one. Maybe you plan to write the next great novel. Or train for the triathlon. Perhaps it’s cleaning out the spare room, or getting the tax done. Whatever it is, try some of these techniques on it when you feel yourself procrastinating.

Procrastination Help! Tip 1. Ask if it is important enough to stop procrastinating?

My mate John put his PhD on hold because he says the birth of his baby daughter, and being with her in her first few years, was more important.

Before you even start giving yourself a hard time about not writing your equivalent to his thesis, ask yourself – is it important enough? Check out where your time is going – often this is because the things you’re spending your time on are, in fact, more important.

Procrastination Help! Tip 2. Work out how it serves you to procrastinate

Peter discovered that he’d often leave his taxes to the last moment because then he’d build up such a sense of urgency that he would do them quickly.

If you delay cleaning out the spare room, your mother-in-law can’t visit. Not training for the triathlon means you’ll never know if you were any good, and you can pretend you were. All of our actions serve us in some way. When you know how procrastinating serves you, you can either be happy and recognise that it’s OK, or you can give yourself the advantage some other way (e.g fill the spare room with a Jacuzzi or a train set).

Procrastination Help! Tip 3. Tie NOT procrastinating to a value

About 5 years ago I heard an architect suggest that the state of your home reflects the state of your life and who you truly are. I looked at my own home, and started fixing the staircase which was half-finished for 12 years, and painted the second half of the back fence (left for 2 years).

When you link the outcome of your procrastination to something important to you (identity, in my case, but it could also be wealth, happiness, order, love, any concept which you think is important), things get moving magically!

Procrastination Help! Tip 4. Bribe yourself to do it NOW

Linking to a value is like giving yourself a non-concrete reward. You can also bribe yourself (when I write the first draft of my book, I’ll go to Fiji, or have a massage). You may not like bribery in or from others, but you may respond to it in you from yourself!

Procrastination Help! Tip 5. Imagine the worst if you keep procrastinating

And if bribery isn’t your style, consider punishment. Take your lack of action to the Nth degree, and imagine it causing terrible problems for you. You don’t pick up the phone and call that unhappy client now, then in a year you have no business at all. You don’t do your tax now, the Taxation Office hits you with fines which mean you go into overdraft, putting strain on your client relationships. You argue with a client, you lose 50% of your business, you have no income, you have to sell your home. You get the picture. Imagine the worst. ‘Catastrophise’. Notice and see if that moves you to do it!

Procrastination Help! Tip 6. Chunk it small to stop procrastinating

However you’ve motivated yourself, it’s easier if you chunk it into smaller tasks. Whenever my lounge room gets so cluttered I can’t find my keys, I take just one thing upstairs with me to put back in its place every time I walk upstairs. 

When writing articles and books, I always start with just the headings. I’ll write 100 words, that’s all. Sometimes I do just that. Sometimes I feel so buoyed by that, I continue for a while. When I sat down to write a 100,000-word book on consulting, I sat down for one hour only. One hour on. One hour off. I have now written several, and a number of 10,000 word books (shorter, but still just as prone to procrastination).

Procrastination Help! Tip 7. Use the Godiva Chocolate Pattern to overcome procrastination

If all else fails, there’s a handy little mental pattern called the Godiva Chocolate Pattern. It’s high-level weirdness. And some of my clients swear by it!

In your mind, imagine a task you need to do. One you’ve been putting off. Now make a second image of something you really love (Chocolate is what many people use, hence the name Godiva Chocolate Pattern). Cover the task image with the good image. Really get into the good image. Remind yourself of how good it is, how much you love it, intensify your feelings around that image.

Then, in your mind’s eye, scratch at the centre of the good image, so you can just begin to see the task behind it. As soon as you can see it, close the hole up again, and remember how good you feel about the good image. Do this again, five times, each time scratching at the centre of the good image until you see the task image, each time revealing a little more of the task, each time going back to the good image, and reminding yourself how good it is. When you’ve done it faithfully at least five times or so, notice how the task you’ve been procrastinating on is not so unattractive now.

It may still not be as good as chocolate, but it may become a little easier to begin. 

There it is, 7 strategies for getting a “round tuit” for Christmas.

Do enjoy the sense of accomplishment when you do get a round to it! 

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