Stop Fretting and Start Doing
How good does it have to be? This is a challenge I offer to many of the professionals I work with, who procrastinate and suffer for days and weeks, because they fear their completed projects won’t be perfect.
The fear of failure, disappointment and of disappointing others can be immobilizing and at times destructive for many of us.
In an effort to avoid this emotional discomfort, many professionals will look for something less stressful and less emotionally taxing to attend to. This re-focusing will afford short run relief, but will eventually add to the discomfort as the avoidance will inevitably raise their level of anxiety.
Each day a project or task is avoided leads to another layer of worry and anxiety as deadlines approach and procrastination increases. The beast grows until you fear it will devour you. Eventually you can’t avoid your worry as you ponder over and over the beginning, middle and end of the project that is never quite out of your mind and never quite started. As the deadline approaches you scramble, much the way fighter pilots race to their planes when a red alert is sounded. You muster all of your creative energy and work frenetically late into the wee hours and complete the assignment just as the final bell tolls. You experience a great sense of relief and feel emotionally and physically drained and promise yourself, “Never Again." You swear you will start earlier the next time something is due and complete the assignment with plenty of time to spare. And the cycle of what if and avoiding begins anew.
While this pattern of what if and avoidance can be frustrating, disheartening and destructive at times it does not have to eternally rule your behavior and moods. This pattern can be reshaped with mindful focus and a willingness to adapt new behaviors.
Here are a few tips to get you started towards procrastinating less and being proactive more.
- Build momentum by breaking the task into steps and start with the one that seems the least onerous. Reward yourself at the end of each step. Rewards can be something as simple as a cup of coffee, 10 minutes to read an article that is interesting to you or a trip to the water cooler or as grand as setting a day to do something that is fun for you.
- Get a break from the stress by alternating the more and less difficult tasks.
- Set a deadline to begin and a completion date and commit to that deadline by sharing it with someone who will hold you accountable.
- Commit some period of time daily to work on the project
- Review your progress at the end of the day or week with someone you trust.
- Take an inventory of prior consequences endured from efforts to avoid a taxing project and determine if it is worth the same level of suffering.
1. Be honest with yourself when setting an expectation. Don’t commit to a task if you know it is so difficult or burdensome that you will never even tend to it. You surely will never complete it.
2. That anxiety is a call to action. It will continue to grow as long as we avoid the situation and will subside as soon as we take control and become active.
3. Ask yourself, “How good does this have to be to be good enough”?
I assure the professionals I work with that few things in their lives will ever be perfect, but many things can and will be good enough.