As we live the preparedness lifestyle, we take responsibility to prepare for all threats to our way of life. However, one threat is often overlooked. It is a silent saboteur which quietly sucks minutes, hours and days from our schedule. We are left with excess stress, fatigue, depression and irritability. What is this enemy that silently shadows us?
This enemy has stolen more productivity from me than any other bad habit. What is the best way to defeat an enemy? Study it. Discover its weaknesses and minimize our vulnerability to its attacks. Let's take a minute to analyze this enemy and perhaps, together, we can destroy or minimize its influence over our lives.
What Are The Causes Of Procrastination?
Too Much To Do.
You are a Rubie because you desire to be more self reliant. As a self reliant individual, you have a lot to offer others. You are always been quick to volunteer to help others (Rubies and Non Rubies alike). As such, over time, you have become the "go to" guy. People call you multiple times per day asking you for favors. It feels good to be needed, doesn't it? Pretty soon, you not only have all of your projects and chores to do but those of your friends, relatives and community at large. Once you are overwhelmed, it becomes difficult to prioritize. All of the projects need to be done. But which one should be done first? The end result is "analysis-paralysis." Nothing gets done as you sit and decide which project needs to be done first. Pick something and do it.
Forgetting How To Say "NO."
In your lust to raise your self esteem, you begin to forget how to say "no." Over time, you become overburdened with the chores and projects of others, while our priorities go unfulfilled As you begin to exercise your "no" muscle you will quickly find out who are your true friends. If a person is your true friend, they will not get upset if you have to say "no." So, you will quickly learn who deserves your help and who is simply a "leach." Discard those leaches and you will free up additional time. With the additional time, the feelings of being overwhelmed will diminish and you will see more motivation to get the things done that you find to be important. Learn to say "No."
Failure To Plan - The To Do ListEven as we forget how to say no, we exacerbate the problem by failing to plan. I know that when I begin my day without a clear "to do" list, I waste significantly more time than when I have a clear cut list of objectives for that day. When I cook, I do not hesitate to use a recipe. When I fly, I do not hesitate to generate a flight plan. When we begin our journey through our day, we should likewise generate a properly prioritized plan.
Failure To Prioritize - Chores v. Projects
A neatly typed to do list is of no use if you do not have a properly prioritized plan. To do this, you need to understand the distinction between "chores" and "projects". A chore is something that continually needs to be done over and over to maintain a certain quality of life. In contrast, a project is an action, or series of actions, that, when completed, permanently improve your quality of life. Very often when you do not want to start an unpleasant project, you use chores as a veiled form of procrastination.
For instance, when I was studying for the bar exam, I found that my apartment was the cleanest it had been during my three years of law school. In fact, the clothes were washed, the closets cleaned out, the pantries were full of food and the firearms were cleaned. But, the project - studying for the bar - had not begun.
In order to properly prioritize, you need to create a master to do list that reflects all of the weekly chores as well as the projects that are also on my plate. Next to each project, you list the next task that you need to accomplish toward the completion of that project. When you plan each day's to do list, you must be careful to include items from the chore list as well as the project list. This way, everything moves forward.
Perfectionism - Self Esteem And Fear Of Failure
More often than not, procrastination reflects a deeper, underlying emotional problem. In fact, it might surprise you to find that many highly motivated Type "A" individuals suffer from low self esteem. Often, a person with low self esteem feels the need to accomplish every task with perfection. This fear of failure leads many such persons to procrastinate until the last minute (if at all) before performing the task. The emotional payoff is that the person can excuse a sub-par result by claiming that he/she did not have enough time to complete the project.
I am a perfectionist. I grew up with a substantial relationship with my grandfather, who was master sergeant during World War II. There was only one way to do anything and that was the "right" way. You did not dare get your bait hung up on a stump while fishing, even if you were only six years old. I learned quickly that I had to be perfect to avoid his verbal abuse. When I felt that I could not be perfect, I simply avoided the project until someone else did it or time was so short that the consequences of not performing were worse than the potential for verbal criticism.
Even today, I continue to fight this battle. I have had a number of revelations over the years. I would like to share those with you.
It is quite likely that your version of mediocre is the world's version of excellence. Your standard of performance is likely so far above that of the world, that even when you do a mediocre job, you still far exceed the average person's standard.
Getting started is the hardest part. Often once I can get started, I enjoy the challenge so much that I continue the project for many hours. In order to help me get started, I use an egg timer. I will set the timer for ten to fifteen minutes and tell myself that I will work for this time and quit if I feel like it. Very seldom do I ever quit.
Take small breaks every fifteen minutes. Studies show that a person has the most mental acuity during the first fifteen minutes of working. So, make your work sessions fifteen minutes at a time and take a break. You will get more accomplished than if you tried an exhausting five hour marathon session.
Divide large tasks into small ones. As noted above, on any given day, I am only concerned with the next step to be accomplished on any given project. Even if I determine that I need to plan ahead, I can do so as I generate the daily to do list. There is no need to engage in analysis-paralysis. Just decide what you are going to do next. Remember, you can drive from Los Angeles to New York at night by seeing only the hundred foot of road illuminated by your headlights.
Procrastination is a life killer. It is an enemy that is just as real as any other enemy that we prepare to repel. But it kills slowly and silently, day by day. Do not wake up one day and realize that the enemy of procrastination has stolen what could have been a fulfilling and productive life.
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