What Are You Waiting For?

Do you do everything in it’s time; or are you like most of us, and sometimes wait longer than you should to get started on certain projects?

The more we delay, the more we become stressed about the delay. It’s a vicious cycle and, often there is no winner.

If asked why we procrastinate, we might say we’re trying to make our life easier and calmer by taking our time. The reality is that putting off responsibilities almost always results in increasing the stress we are trying to avoid. As a bonus, once we realize we’ve procrastinated, we beat ourselves up for waiting so long, adding guilt.

Two reasons we delay starting an uncomfortable task include 1) Being uncertain of the outcome, and 2) Convincing ourselves that something bad could happen. We may be concerned about a confrontation with a co-worker, boss or family member. We might feel inadequate and unsure whether we can complete the task to an ‘acceptable’ standard – driven by our own perfectionism.

To help overcome procrastination, address uncomfortable issues as soon as they arise. This helps to reduce or eliminate the stress caused by inaction. Procrastination causes frustration, nervousness and distractions which play out in our interactions with those closest to us – our children, spouse, and co-workers.

Perceived consequences can also keep us from acting in a timely manner. If we don’t go to the doctor because we are afraid of what might be found, we may put off the very visit needed to avoid bigger problems. If you find yourself justifying not doing something, examine whether your claims are based in fact or in your imagination.

Perfectionists have a hard time getting started, because they know they will never be satisfied with the outcome. If we wait for perfection we will not be able to commit to what we know is right. Perfection is a trait of God, not man. Often perfectionism is an indication of a fear and a way of avoiding commitment. When we look for the ‘perfect job’, the perfect spouse’, the ‘perfect ministry’ we allow ourselves to avoid commitment. – Author unknown. Regardless of your religious convictions, you aren’t expected to be perfect. Just give life your best shot.

If fear of commitment or fear of the unknown is keeping you from starting in a timely manner, ask yourself what is the worst thing that can happen? If you can live with the consequence, quickly move forward and begin the project.

We must change our habits to change our lives. Waiting until the last minute to start something is a conscious choice most of the time. There are a thousand excuses for procrastinating, such as: I just wanted to complete one other thing; I needed to sleep five more minutes; or, the assignment was too hard. When you get right down to it, these excuses are just that – excuses for not doing what needs to be done.

Think of one thing you consistently have trouble starting. Say it out loud. Declare to yourself and those around you that you will no longer wait until the last possible moment to begin that task or interaction. Pledge to start that task as soon as practical for at least six weeks. Tell those around you that you will need their help to hold you accountable as you change your old habits. Once you’ve mastered that area of procrastination, move on to others. Start with an easy one to feel the satisfaction of success.

Prioritize your day with a To-Do list. Rank your list by order of importance and when the tasks must be accomplished. Be cautious not to be distracted by “urgent” matters that arise throughout the day. Review your list to ensure that addressing those urgent matters will not impact your ability to complete a higher priority item on time. Tasks that rise to the highest levels should be accomplished first.

Set deadlines and address difficult problems head on. Break large or difficult tasks into small steps. Convince yourself to work just five minutes on a project in order to get it started. The key is to learn the habit of starting.

If you find yourself missing deadlines, meetings or homework assignments, you will be surprised how much stress you can eliminate by getting organized and forcing yourself to take that first step. Just getting started can change your life and the lives of those around you for the better.