How to Fix Procrastination?

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?

2 thoughts on “How to Fix Procrastination?”

  1. If disorganization is also part of your challenge, Google ‘NSGCD’.
    I too have challenges similar to those you describe.
    I think (at least part of) my problem is that I have many interests but feel that I have insufficient time to tend to them all.
    Thus I often feel stretched in many directions (but all by my own doing, I know).
    For me I think I need to improve and be more realistic about priority setting.
    And perfectionism is another ‘thing’ I contend with within myself, and it tends to exacerbate my procrastination.
    I feel that simpifying my life will help to mitigate the stress that these issues create inside me.
    Now, to just quit putting off that simplification process!
    Good luck to you.

  2. Hey Dave, I am the former queen of procrastination and I feel your pain! 🙂

    Here’s a couple of techniques I use that you might find helpful:

    I think if you used any kind of method that’s commonly known as a swiss cheese or salami approach, you can poke holes in those projects that you’re resisting. Another thing I do is what I call a task sandwich approach. To do this, you write down a list of tasks, classed as “ugly – don’t want to do” and “fun – do want to do”. So you have a list of 3 things or steps on your project and 3 guilty pleasure things. Then just work through the list and move as fast as you can through the ugly, utilizing a timer which for some reason really makes you not notice the time. I often find when I do these kinds of things, since I’ve lowered my resistance to the project, I just think “what the hell” and finish the thing. That’s the goal anyway.

    Some people I know also find a lot of success with methods like the Pomodoro technique.

    I’d love it if you let me know if any of these worked for you.

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