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8-Step plan to conquer procrastination

Published:Wednesday | May 28, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Glenford Smith, Career Writer

Glenford Smith, Career Writer

I am
deeply grateful to you for sharing your insightful and helpful replies to various readers' questions and situations.

I write in response to your Sunday Gleaner article of April 27, 2014, 'Time Management Tips for Balancing Study and Work.'

I have always had a problem with the discipline of time management. I understand and agree with your advice on the issue, but I don't practise them consistently.

Why is this? Is it just plain laziness, lack of motivation, or underlying psychological issues that present a mental block? I am a procrastinator, who routinely fails to follow through on plans, as I should. How do I overcome this inertia? Also, am I expecting too much of myself?

- M. Anderson

CAREERS: Knowing you find the Gleaner Career articles helpful, is encouraging. Thanks for reading.

Let's address your last question, first: No, you're not expecting too much of yourself. Your expectations set the limit on your level of performance, so demand only excellence of yourself. Refuse to give in to frustration by settling for mediocrity, you'll eventually fulfil your high standards.

Do you suspect you're being held back by unresolved psychological issues from your past? If so, see a therapist, or qualified counsellor, who can help you work through those issues. It will be money well spent if you're helped.

For most people, the problems you've outlined are not so severe as to require therapy. They're often a simple matter of having developed bad self-management habits over time.

Laziness is a habit. Procrastination is a habit. Failure to follow up on one's plans and priorities is a habit. As such, you can learn to replace them with more positive habits through consistent training and practice. That's easier said than done, however.

Changing bad habits such as procrastination and irresoluteness requires diligence, patience and know-how. Here are some helpful tips to beat negative inertia, develop implementation discipline and master your time better:

1. Start by reviewing the 10 strategies and two resources given in the Gleaner Career article you read.

2. Raise your standard to demand more of yourself in one specific area. For example, identify an activity or project you've habitually procrastinated on, or aborted before completion. Set a schedule to hold yourself to.

3. Specifically identify what activities would normally distract you, such as social media, busy work or phone call. Visualise yourself performing the new activity to replace those old habitual distractions. That is the key to changing old habits, substituting new behaviours for the old ones.

4. Share your habit-busting goal with a supportive friend, colleague or superior, who can also hold you accountable to keep at it.

5. If possible, partner with someone on the project or activity. Mutual support sustains motivation.

6. Activate your willpower to do what's scheduled, immediately, when the time comes, whether you feel like it or not.

7. Practise to focus only on one thing, don't multitask. If you get distracted, just resume concentrating. This is how the process of retraining your mind and body works.

8.Follow this routine for a minimum 21 days, then target another bad habit to change.

Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of 'From Problems to Power' and co-author of 'Profile of Excellence'.