Posted by Dave on May 4, 2010
I am a terrible procrastinator. My wife and I had a goal to complete a laminate-flooring project on April 2, in time to have friends see it for Easter. It is now May 4 and there is actually less work done now than on April 2 (We were well over halfway done and found some previously unnoticed non-level areas in the cement floor that need to be filled in). Basically the whole project has been sitting still for three weeks because I haven’t gone to Home Depot to get some leveling product – essentially a half-hour round trip. The whole thing could be done fairly quickly, as it is not complex and doesn’t really require a high level of skill, but I just can’t get myself started.
Besides the flooring project, I have had trouble in the past completing assignments for school in a reasonable period of time (before an hour prior to the due date) as well as getting difficult projects at work done quickly. Interestingly, for all things personal finance I seem to be able to make reasonably quick decisions on issues that come up and get done what needs to be done. I have been doing some reading about procrastination (while I am not fixing my basement floor) and have found the following traits seem to contribute to procrastination.
Perfectionism: I think that I fall into a trap that I might as well not do something if it’s not going to be perfectly done. This element is very evident in doing things that I am not 100% comfortable with (such as a floor). It’s almost like I freeze up, and rather than risking getting it wrong, I don’t bother doing anything at all. To combat this, I think I probably have to tell myself that most of the stuff I am ever going to do is not going to be perfect, but it will probably end up pretty good.
Goals are too high: I expected to get the floor done in one day. When we hit a roadblock and this didn’t happen, everything came to a grinding halt, so rather than getting a little bit of a project done, I now have a basement with flooring strewn all over it that is basically unusable. I’m not sure how internally I will fix this issue, from reading it is generally stated “do something, rather than nothing” – whether it achieves some goal I have set or not, at least it would mean that I am working toward my end goal, even if it doesn’t match what my plan was.
Waiting to ask for help: I do this at work sometimes, I put off doing something that someone else would be able to assist me with rather than (in my head) “bothering” someone. To fix this, I think I need to recognize when I am at an impasse and seek help immediately, rather than waiting a while, sitting on the project or problem I am having trouble overcoming.
I would like to stop procrastinating. I would like to be more pro-active in completing tasks, but I understand this may require some significant work on my part. I would like to (for example) be studied up for an exam well before I need to write it, rather than cramming up to the last minute and not being prepared. I would like to not have a messed up basement that should have been done last month. I am going to try to implement some of the actions I have read about in the next little while and see how that goes.
I am wondering if other people have this problem, or have had a problem with procrastination in the past that they have overcome? Do you have any books/programs that you used that helped you overcome this issue?