By Katherine Pham, ELE Personal Development & Wellness Writer
I have been a serious procrastinator my entire life but can proudly and, to be quite honest, surprisingly say that I have managed to overcome procrastination (most of the time).
Ever since I can remember, even as a child in the first grade, I was a procrastinator.
That one sheet of homework that I got just once a week, I remember completing it the morning it was due in the schoolyard just before the bell rang and even then, I was too lazy to work out the answers and would straight up copy a friend’s homework sheet.
That bad habit remained with me well into high school and university. Cramming was ‘my jam’ and I never started any piece of homework any sooner than the night before it was due.
No matter how hard I tried or wanted it to be different, I could never muster the strength and focus to work on things as and when I should have. Even quite recently, knowing I had a white-themed party to attend months prior, I waited until just a couple of hours before the party to check my wardrobe for something to wear. Needless to say, I didn’t quite manage to get myself organised in time and wore a half-white outfit. No biggie, I wasn’t the only one wearing half-white.
Procrastination though can have a much more devastating effect than just the social shame of not following a dress code.
I, for one, at the mercy of my procrastinating ways, was starting to feel defeated and deflated. I hated not having the self-control that I so desperately wanted to be more productive and do more for myself. I felt so hopeless and trapped and my life stood still without any way out of my most hated bad habit.
I’m still in the process of changing my procrastinating ways, but I have come a long way. Applying myself productively, I have managed to achieve things in my life I never believed I was capable of, including starting a coaching and training business, creating my own blog and writing a novel.
Here are the techniques that I have successfully applied to be able to do that.
Lesson 1: Change your relationship to tension
The greatest breakthrough happened when I learnt the principle of tension. I wrote an entire blog post on it but basically it goes like this. As you start going for things you want to create, for example, a business, writing a book, blogging, asking someone out for a date, giving up smoking etc. you’ll start to feel tension.
Think of it like a stretched elastic band.
On one end holding the elastic band in place is current reality, where you are today. On the other end is your vision. This can be anything – a business, a lover, a job etc.
Since there is a discrepancy between what you want and what you think you can have or do, this discrepancy causes TENSION.
Most people can’t handle that tension, and hence they quickly let go of their vision or end result.
As a procrastinator, forcing myself to start doing something productive gave me so much tension, that it was much easier to do nothing at all.
Therefore, the key is to start changing your relationship towards tension.
Sure, getting myself onto my laptop to do some work or research is going to give me tension, but I had to start being OK with that tension because guess what?
… on the other side of that tension, is what you would love to create or have.
Lesson 2: Give yourself only the time you need to do an activity and no more than that
Another breakthrough came recently when I learned this concept at a project management course.
It’s the idea that people will take as long as they are given to complete something. Give someone two weeks to do something, that’s how long it takes to do it.
I immediately recognised it in myself. If I had a class that I was teaching in a week and knew I had to start working on it now, it would take me exactly a week to do it, even though the actual time to do the work might only be a few hours. I would pad out all that extra time with inessential activities and distractions and give myself right until the last moment to complete it.
If I had of allowed myself only the hour it took to complete the work, then I’d have so much more time afterward to do other work as well.
That awareness now makes me more focused on only allowing the right amount of time to do a piece of work and no more.
It was a simple lesson but it has seemingly undone a lifetime habit of leaving things until the last possible moment.
Lesson 3: Once things start moving it gets easier
Over time, as I have started to become more productive with my time, the most amazing thing has happened. I stopped needing to force myself and instead I started enjoying myself!
In the beginning, I would have to force myself to move and do something useful, like writing, for example. I would draaag myself to my desk to write and painfully keep myself there writing. Often an entire day would yield only a couple of hundred words of writing.
With each piece of writing complete, though, I would feel the satisfaction of that and it would be so encouraging.
When I started posting my blogs, I was getting good feedback and that also gave me encouragement to write more.
Now, with the confidence that I am actually half decent at writing, I actually enjoy coming up with ideas for my next post. Sometimes I might not enjoy every moment, or it will still be quite forced, but it has become something of a habit to think about and then write my next piece.
I am fuelled by my self-confidence and the positive reinforcement from my results.
The same has applied with working out, with building a business, applying myself in the workplace and so many areas in my life.
First it’s a drag, then it’s normal, then it’s a party! Stick it out during the ‘drag’ stage and it only gets easier there on in.
So, there you have it.
Your creative life awaits you.