How To Stop Procrastinating

What is Procrastination?

Procrastination means putting off doing something. Sometimes that is what we do, even when we KNOW we HAVE to get something done, whether it’s pay a bill, take exercise, prepare a long report, decorate a room, apply for a grant or return something bought online that doesn’t fit! We all do it. We may procrastinate in different areas but we all procrastinate.

Structured procrastination

Some people have used procrastination as a way of getting things done – surprising? This is called structured procrastination and was devised by a Stanford professor who wrote a book called Art of Procrastination: The Art of Effective Dawdling, Dallying, Lollygagging, and Postponing. He used procrastination on BIG (really impossible tasks) to get him to complete smaller tasks. We all do that too – he just used it in a really big way. Don’t believe me? Tell me, if you have an article to write, or a long report or a textbook to read, does doing the dishes or tidying your room suddenly become imperative? We often try to put off starting a big task that we dread by working on smaller, easier tasks that we don’t like doing but that we find preferable (or a way of postponing) to making a start on the big important task.

Student Syndrome

This is where someone is given a task with a long completion time, so a student might be told to write an essay that doesn’t need to be submitted for 3 weeks (or the end of term). Student syndrome is thinking that completion date is so far away that there is not need to start just yet, so it keeps getting put off. A week before the due date, or even the day before, the students suddenly realise this is now due and start to panic. Putting off starting is a well known way of putting time pressure on yourself, so the project gets completed in a rush. There comes a time when the anxiety about not submitting a completed project overcomes the fear of having to get started on something you may not know how to do. You can find out more about student syndrome in this post, together with some resources on how to overcome procrastination.

Strategies To Overcome Procrastination

1. Reminders

Our subconscious may try to get us out of starting a new habit or starting on a big project by “making” us forget. Habits are automatic but starting to put a new habit into place needs conscious thought each time, as does doing something that moves us forward on a project.

If you have a calendar with large spaces on it where you can write something and which you check daily, then write a daily reminder to yourself for the next 21 days.
Put sticky notes on your bathroom mirror or the inside of your front door, anywhere you will see them several times a day.

2. Visualization and Affirmations

Take 10 or 15 minutes at a quiet time of day to visualise how you will feel and act when your project is completed or how you will feel when you hand it in on time, knowing you have done good work or how you will feel when you have made your chosen new habit automatic. We often avoid tasks that we feel won’t be enjoyable, so think about why you will enjoy the outcome or the benefit you will get from your new habit. Use affirmations. Say them out loud. “I enjoy swimmimg / jogging / dancing / tennis.” “I feel happy and relaxed handing in my completed essay / report / work”. Affirmations should be positive (I enjoy, I love, etc and should be in the present tense, I am, I do, etc)

3. Just A Small Step

I call this “Just One”. You tell yourself you just have to do one (pushup, dish) or stick it for one minute (putting away laundry, filling the dishwasher) then you can stop. Allow yourself to stop after the one if you want, you can do another very soon but often, you will see that it is only a small job and you finish it in a very short time.

4. Reward yourself

I have motivation charts that I use to get me to do certain jobs. I award myself points for doing them (eg a point each time I climb the 3 flights of stairs or for making the bed) and a small monetary reward for so many points. I choose to give myself a dollar for 100 general points or for 50 exercise points. If funds are tight, be creative about your rewards: how about a 15 minute bubble bath or a visit to a favorite website?

5. Encourage yourself

Forming new habits and overcoming procrastination would be easy if we could just decide to change but it doesn’t usually work that way. Rather than making a “never again” vow, tell yourself it’s “just for today”. You can do the same again tomorrow. Step by step day by day is much easier to achieve.

6. Use A Project Motivation Chart

I have found that a Project Motivation Chart uses several of the above techniques and that of a Daruma doll in one easy colorful page. At least, it’s colorful AFTER you have colored it in! You put the chart somewhere prominent, so it provides a reminder (strategy 1). It has space for completing a small step (strategy 3), provides a means of rewarding yourself (strategy 4) and encourages you to complete a project (strategy 5). You complete it yourself so it will contain empty areas until you complete them (like a Daruma doll).

A Project Motivation Chart provides two scales. One is a timescale in days or weeks, or even months if you choose. This one gets filled in every day or week or month that passes, whether you have done anything or not. This provides the time pressure for those who need it and a visual reminder that the completion date is approaching for those suffering from student syndrome. The other scale is a picture or graphic with areas to be completed as you complete a step in your project. So if one of your steps is to read a chapter in a certain book, then you color or shade in one space on the graphic. It is obviously best if your graphic gets completed in step with, or even slightly ahead of your timescale (to allow for difficulties) but even if it falls behind, having it in a prominent place will remind you each day.

What Strategies do YOU use to overcome procrastination?

You can comment below.

Motivational Stories – Daruma – Wishes And Projects

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The Daruma Doll: The Figure For Good Luck In Japan

If you spend some time in Japan you are bound to encounter a unique doll – a red, round, humanoid creature that lacks legs or arms. The doll may or may not have eyes while others have some fancy facial hair. If you knock down this doll it bounces back upright and if you are in luck the doll will grant the grandest of wishes.

The Daruma doll represents good luck and perseverance in Japan. Full of symbolism, the origins of the doll are tied to the highest aspirations of Buddhism. Each year, people buy them and eventually burn them to ashes.

History

Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk who is linked to the rise of the Daruma tradition. It is said that the monk loved to sit still and stare at blank walls while pursuing enlightenment. However, some accounts say his legs and arms, which were now atrophied, fell off. Other legends give different accounts but this is the one responsible for the current shape of the Daruma doll.

The origins of the Daruma as an object of persistence and luck started in Takasaki. At first, people that visited the Daruma Temple were given an illustrated lucky charm for the New Year that depicted a sedentary Bodhidharma. However, a growing demand resulted in the practice of handing out wooden molds that people could use for making their own models of Bodhidharma using paper mache. This was the origin of a tradition that stands to this day.

Making and Meaning

The Daruma has a circular, heavy unseen base whose purpose is to allow the doll to quickly right itself if tipped over. The significance of the Daruma is hidden in plain sight. The painted eyebrows resemble a crane and the beard that covers the cheeks represents a tortoise, which are both traditional symbols for long life in Japan.

found on www.motivation4success.net

found on www.motivation4success.netThe sides of the Daruma’s face are painted in gold, spelling out the maker’s preferred message of fortitude and good luck. The bearded chin alludes to the pine tree branches. The red lines that mark the upper lip and the nostrils signify the bamboo and Japanese plum tree respectively.

It is believed that the red color of the Daruma originated with Bodhidharma’s penchant for wearing red robes. Measles and smallpox outbreaks solidified this custom. The God of Smallpox had a thing for the color red and people that had sick children used to dress them in red and hang red ropes around their homes hoping to appease the deity.

Motivation And Procrastination

The eyes are the most interactive and obvious characteristic of the Daruma. On their faces, the dolls have just 2 blank white circles. If you receive or buy the Daruma, you will have to paint or draw a black pupil in one eye when you are making a wish. Once the wish comes true you can fill in the other eye. The tradition is believed to relate to the Buddhist ideal of achieving enlightenment, although the Japanese often wish for more mundane things such as getting promotions or passing exams. One theory for why this works is that the unfinished figurine (one eye filled in, the other blank) nags at us each time we pass it, provided it has been placed somewhere we will see it each day and this prompts or motivates us to achieve our wish or goal so that we can complete the other eye. I first heard of these many years ago and this prompted me to create a paper version that recorded the steps to completion, not just the binary configuration of start / done! For me, that did not give any idea of how far along I was with any project or how near to completion. I did like the idea of the uncompleted eye nagging at me each time I passed it, though, that tends to instil a sense of time pressure, which is handy for some people who tend to procrastinate. What I needed was a visual version that not only reminded me I had an uncompleted project (the nagging eye) but also showed how far I had got with it. This is especially important if you ever suffer from “student syndrome” or “it’s not due for ages syndrome”, that’s where you have plenty of time to complete a project if you start NOW but leaving it until the night before will cause panic, although leaving it for a while builds that time pressure that FORCES you to do something.

Variation and Configuration

The basic traits of the Daruma remain consistent but there are still variations. Some of the dolls are clad in gold, mainly in a business hoping for financial success. The design details in the facial hair also differ as do the sides and the belly of the doll. Various regions also have further color variations while Goshiki Daruma are sets of 5 dolls all in different colors, and pink Daruma resembling “Hello Kitty” have been spotted at various festivals in Japan.

The Daruma is usually burned at the start of each New Year as with many other good luck items in Japan. The burning often happens on the grounds of the temple where it was purchased.

The Daruma can be found in many places and in different sizes. Watch out for them and check whether both eyes have been filled in. If they have been filled in, it could be interesting to find out from the owner what they wished for.

Final Thoughts

The Daruma doll is a big thing in Japan since it is a symbol of perseverance and good luck. Now that you understand the significance of the doll in Japan, you probably understand why the Japanese have utmost respect for it. Next time you are in Japan, you should consider getting a Daruma doll and you could get your wishes granted.

Do Just One Thing

Procrastination At Its Finest

Do Just One Thing
Do Something

Last Minute

A former colleague told me a story one time about a friend of his, a school teacher, who left school early on the last day of the school year to buy wallpaper and paste, so he could decorate a room in his house at a leisurely pace over the summer holidays. Two months later, on the last day before term started, he was rushing to start and finish the job! An example of procrastination at its finest?

Of course, he is not the only one. There are many examples of this type of procrastination and once you have sighed and blushed over these, I will give you Just One tip on how to avoid being one of these stories.

Student Syndrome

A recent study was run on “procrastination in schools” and the results were remarkable. Over 90% of students suffer from procrastination whether it involves tests, assignments, or exams. This tends to get worse as they grow older and does not fade away. This is often known as “student syndrome”, where the project has been given plenty of time for preparation, so the student puts off starting because they have “plenty of time” but of course, that time slips away. There is a book written for procrastinators in upper school and College for writing essays and even pulling an overnighter but you will need to know the material, unless it is a pure conjectural or fiction type of essay. I wish I had known about this book when I was in school but the author wasn’t even born then. It’s an excellent book and will only take about 2 hours to go through. You can even download it to a Kindle so you can get stuck in straight away. I have read it and used it during my doctoral studies but it is also useful for school pupils writing essays. It is called “Don’t Panic: The Procrastinator’s Guide to Writing an Effective Term Paper” by Steven Posusta.

There are a select few who can overcome this problem and continue to improve as students. The rest struggle and these bad habits continue even into academic life. Some academics in University seldom publish papers in journals (as they are required to do), they just don’t “get round to it”. There is a useful book available for them too, on writing a journal article in 12 weeks, based on a paper or essay they have already written, no matter how poor. Again, this is an extremely useful book but is aimed at academic journal articles in all fields. This book is called “Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success” by Wendy Belcher.

Biggest examples of procrastination?

Does it happen elsewhere? You KNOW it does!

Let’s take a peek at a few more stories.

1) Work Assignments

There is no better example than the employee with a major presentation coming up, and who delays preparing for it. After all, in the US, people are said to be more frightened of speaking in public than of death! You might feel comfortable about your knowledge on the topic and prefer to put off preparing. This happens all the time because people don’t want to do the work. You might know the topic, but is that a good reason to delay preparing? What if there are hitches along the way? Procrastination could lead to serious trouble, and it often does. Remember that old adage – To fail to Prepare is to Prepare to Fail.

2) Cleaning

Cleaning is another example of procrastination at its finest. People might have spring cleaning around the corner or just a general day where the rooms have to be vacuumed, and the dusting has to be done. Well, they will delay it to a point where the house is a mess, and it is hard to move around. The same goes for those who leave the dishes to the end of the night rather than doing them along the way. This leads to a pile of dirty dishes no one wants to look at.

There is a “Just One” tip below to help with this.

3) Confrontation

Ever felt like a person was bullying you? What about those were not doing their end of the bargain on a group project? It happens all the time, and certain people put off tackling it because they feel it will turn into confrontation and those repercussions can require further attention which frightens them, so they deny it is happening.

What To Do?

These are all examples of procrastination at its finest. There is a lot of risk attached to putting things off for so long, and it is rarely the right option. So what can you do?

Just One

My preferred option is doing “Just One” and I apply it to everything where I am likely to procrastinate. Just One, means exactly that. If I am procrastinating on putting the laundry away, I tell myself, “Just one item” or sometimes “just one minute”. I put away one item as I pass the laundry drier on the upper landing, even if it is only a hanky. It’s only one item BUT, it’s done, it’s away and I can do another one next time I pass. If it’s an essay, then “Just One” might mean “one minute”. I can pin a piece of paper to my noticeboard and write down 5 questions about the subject in that one minute. If someone is not pulling their weight on a project, I ask them for one minute of their time and say what I am doing, then ask for their comments. There is no confrontation and because the intervention happens with plenty of time before the project is due, it gives them a chance to overcome THEIR procrastination.

When you are confronted with a big task that you don’t know where to start, Do SOMETHING, ANYTHING, just do something, JUST ONE. You will feel freer and an awful lot better. That dread in the pit of your stomach will start to lift and you will see a way through to completing it. Maybe not right away but you will find that path towards completion.

Carrying Through a Long Project

If you need to carry through a long project with several steps, you may find this new post on how to stop procrastinating helpful. It includes a visual tool for comparing what you have done with what still is left to do and because you stick it up somewhere you will see it every day, it provides a visual reminder of the undone project, rather like a Daruma doll, only it shows you what steps to take.