Operation: Now!

Conquer procrastination in the new year

It’s 2002, and you are determined to make it your best year ever. You’ve set your priorities, made resolutions, and identified goals. You are committed to improving yourself and making the most of your life. As you devote the first weekend of the new year to tossing out clutter and bad habits with the Christmas tree, to make room for the new you, last year’s desk calendar falls to the floor, opening on the page marked Monday, January 1. You read the notes on the page, and it hits you: Your 2002 resolutions are nearly identical to the ones you made in 2001. How did this happen? More than likely, the culprit is some form of procrastination. In the worst of cases–like last year’s resolutions–they are put off indefinitely.

Alonzo Adams from Plainfield, New Jersey, has wrestled with procrastination throughout his 17 years as a successful painter. Despite looming deadlines, he often just can’t seem to get started on a painting, allowing distractions–including his passion for golf–to get the better of him. Adams, who counts Bill Cosby, Maya Angelou, Jasmine Guy, and Alonzo Mourning among the more notable collectors of his work, blames his procrastination on another “p” word: perfectionism.

“My problem is my passionate desire to put something out there that is meaningful,” says Adams, 40. “I start thinking about it instead of just sitting down and painting. Some of my ideas are in my head for years before they come to fruition. I like to call it marinating.”

Unfortunately, too much marinating can get you into hot water when a deadline is staring you in the face. Worse yet, is the frustration of dreams, such as better health, career satisfaction, or a successful new business, forever deferred. Don’t let that happen. Use these tips to begin Operation: Now!

  • Focus on what happens when you do, not on what happens when you don’t. By concentrating on the latter, you become preoccupied with feelings of anxiety or guilt over the yet-to-be completed action, which you are likely to avoid. This leads to more procrastination, more guilt, and more avoidance. You get the picture. Focus on the results–and the reward–and let that be your motivator.
  • Put production ahead of perfection. Like Adams, many of us put off getting started because we are obsessed with doing it just right. However, the most important element is to get started by taking the first step. For example, to avoid putting off your workouts, concentrate on just getting to the gym, not on completing every step of your full 90-minute exercise routine. Excellence comes over time. It is achieved during the process of consistent doing. Unless you start, you can’t finish.
  • Break the task into bite-sized, measurable pieces. Don’t think about your ultimate goal of writing your first great novel by the end of the year. Plan to devote Saturdays between 10:00 a.m. and noon during January and February to writing. Focus projects page by page, chapter by chapter, and the book will eventually take care of itself.
  • Adopt the “if
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