Is Avoiding Procrastination Difficult or Frustrating?

Use the Four Quadrants to Kick the Habit

Have you ever found yourself saying "Yes, I will do it. But right now I'm busy. I'll do it later - tomorrow."

Yet there's no time on the clock called "later." Nor is there a day labelled "tomorrow" on the calendar. So tomorrow never comes and you just don't get round to it. You're full of good intentions, but somehow it never happens. My mother used to say, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." Wise woman, my mother!

So how do you stop your
self sabotage and do what you've said you'll do? Here's how to avoid procrastination.

You're given $86,400 a day to spend...

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The participants in a seminar I attended many years ago were asked: "What would you do with the money if you were given $86,400 every day to spend for the rest of your life?"

The answers came really quickly to start with, and then dried up when people had named their current desires. The presenter got a few more answers when she added, "Now let me tell you a little more. Your bank account is topped up to $86.400 at midnight every night. So even if you don't spend the money, you still have the same amount each day."

Then we started trying to find ways to stop the balance disappearing when we hadn't spent it all. "How many of you would start just wasting the money?" she continued. Nobody said yes. "How many, even when you realized you had wasted some one day, would continue to waste it every day." Again nobody said yes.

She concluded, "Yet this is a true story, you are given 86,400 to spend each and every day. And it is replenished at midnight. But it's not dollars - you're given seconds instead."

We then began to appreciate that time has value - real value. Some even say time is money. You're given 86,400 seconds each day, and you can't save any for tomorrow. How much time do you use wisely? How much do you just squander? Seeing your time as valuable is the first step to avoiding procrastination.

Reward Yourself

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When you need to perform a task, break it down into more manageable chunks. Make a commitment to do the next part by a certain time. Reward yourself for completing it. Perhaps chocolate ice cream or TV could be your motivation: "I will do this task by this evening, and then I'll watch my favorite program." The point is that if it's not done by the time the program is shown, then you don't allow yourself to watch it.
A tub of ice-cream will reward overcoming procrastinating self-sabotage
"Cruel" you say. No, just
simple and effective! You'll only miss your favorite program once. Next time you'll ensure that the task is completed by your self-imposed deadline. Anyway, you can always record the episode to watch once you've completed it.

This stops
self sabotage for both pleasant and unpleasant tasks. Do the unpleasant ones first. The reward can be anything enjoyable, even another task. Reward yourself with something pleasant when you've completed an unpleasant task. But make the reward correspond to its size.

On the day you go to the gym for the first time, you can have dessert, but don't indulge your
self sabotage mechanism - don't eat a whole tub of ice-cream! If the achievement took ages, and really is monumental, then you can choose a really large reward - a second helping!

Keep your Promises!

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This is effective deadline setting at its best. Yet it relies upon you keeping your word - to yourself. And if you don't keep your own word to yourself, there's no power in your word. The muscle of your word will be weakened and you'll have even less power to create. Yet since your word is one of the three tools of creation, you want your word to have lots of power. Increase your inner power.

So be careful what you promise. Take all promises very seriously. You self sabotage big time when you break your commitments, especially those you make to yourself. You need to decide that you are worth keeping your promises to, then your word gains power. Extraordinary personal power creates extraordinary results.

The Four Quadrants

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The Four Quadrants, as taught in the What Matters Most™ course by the Franklin Covey organization, explain how to choose effectively. They help you avoid self sabotage by categorizing what's Important and what's Not Important, as well as the Urgent and Not Urgent, into four quadrants:
The Four Quadrants Important and Urgent stop procrastination self-sabotage
The quadrant a task falls in will help you determine the priority to give it - when you should do it.

High-Performance Companies

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Gerrit Cloete, our course presenter, added the survey results which asked companies how much time they usually spent in each of the Four Quadrants to the usual material. They then presented the answers from the average companies and the high-performance ones separately.

Where each differently performing company spends their time is fascinating:

Successful Companies do the Important first to stop Procrastination
You can see that Average and High Performing Companies reverse the time each spends in the Important-yet-Not-Urgent second Quadrant and the Not-Important-yet-Urgent Quadrant 3.

High Performing Companies avoid procrastination by prioritizing the Important tasks. They first do the Urgent and next do what's Not Urgent. In dramatic contrast, Average Companies also do what's Important first but then self sabotage by doing what's Not Important but is Urgent next.

So if you'd rather be a high performer than average, then follow the successful - model your life with the High Performance strategy. Do both the Important category tasks first. Only then look at what's Urgent-yet-Not-Important. Don't bother with tasks neither Urgent nor Important, time is too valuable to waste!

Food for Thought

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“The responsibility for both present and future is in our own hands.
If we live right today, then tomorrow has to be right.”

Eknath Easwaran, 1910-1999, Indian author, Professor of English Literature,
Fulbright Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley

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