On getting things done (at last)

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How do you feel about putting off until tomorrow what really could and should be done today?

Countless ordinarily intelligent, resourceful people – with every good intention in the world – will be flirting today with procrastination, or may even be deep in its grip. The usual scenario (and it’s very usual) is dreading a task, an encounter, a conversation, a “completion” so much that it is ceaselessly postponed. What happens then is also familiar. The longer it’s postponed, the more likely it is to grow in monumental size – at least in your own mind. Which is exactly the place where you need to take the cure. Why? Because procrastination always means that your emotions have somehow or other got the better of you: fear, confusion, shame; an unwillingness to say you don’t know how to face it, anxiety wrapped up as perfectionism (“I can’t do something unless I do it perfectly”)…these are all highly inwardly coloured emotional experiences that don’t just cling to procrastination like velcro; they drive it. The combination – and usually there is a fair amount of shame and fear in there –  is exceptionally uncomfortable. What’s more, it uses far more energy than taking the first essential step to face the task, the person, the boredom or dread of all ever will.

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Rather than making increasingly creative excuses about why you can’t start or finish something that really does matter (to you OR to someone else)… may I suggest that you make a creative plan instead? Doing this, you move away from the emotions that have been sabotaging you…and to a different and more strategic part of your thinking repertoire. To keep it brief and practical, I would suggest the following steps.

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Gather pen, paper, notebook, thinking cap. In list form:

1) Break this fearsome task down into manageable chunks.   2) Be clear about what’s involved – and what the end point is (especially what a relief it will be to have this done and dusted).   3) Think it through from the perspective of someone who’s far less emotionally involved: how would that paragon of efficiency do it? (Write that down.) 4) Decide if you need help, advice or the benefit of experience from others. However…talking about the task is not the same as getting it done. You know your life, your weaknesses AND your strengths better than anyone else. Use that experience.

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Once your plan is clear, get started. Ignore your own magnificent reasons why today is not the best, most perfect, ideal day to begin. Planning is the prelude; it is the overture; it is not the main act.
Start.
If your resolve is to spend an hour or two each day until it’s done, choose a time when you are fresh and stick to it. Don’t keep “choosing”. Emotion will always get in the way – and your own excuses can be powerfully alluring as well as persuasive. After all, you may have been polishing them up for years.
Check your inner commentary throughout (talk yourself up rather than down): “I can do this. I am doing this. What’s the single next step? What’s needed NEXT?” Note, too, what a huge relief it will be to get this done. Visualize that; see yourself completing, feeling the relief, letting go of dread. Doing that, you are setting in train some inner coaching skills that will stand you in terrific stead in times to come. And they will come. Procrastination is a habit. Like all habits, it needs to be replaced by a different way of doing things that helps you to feel freer, livelier, more powerful, more trusting of yourself and the challenges you are facing.
Can you? Yes! And the fun is always in the discovering.

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