The ‘Someday’ Disease: Five Cures For Procrastination
Last week I wrote about the ‘Someday’ disease as I like to call it. It’s a syndrome that runs rampant in modern society. You may also know it as procrastination, but this isn’t just procrastinating over that report you need to finish, or getting the dishes washed and dried. ‘Someday’ disease goes much further. Millions of people put off their lives, goals and dreams all the time, saying they will do it someday. But when is someday the right day? When conditions are perfect? When you have enough experience and knowledge?
This extreme procrastination manifests itself as excuse-making – coming up with any rationalized reason not to act on your aspirations or plans now. Yet the fact is, conditions are never perfect so why not start today and correct course as you go along?
Of course, it’s easy to tell yourself that, it’s quite another thing to put it into practice when ‘Someday’ disease is running rampant. However, there are ways to combat it. In the same way washing your hands regularly can stop you catching colds, the following five practices (combined with the three truths from last week) can cure you of procrastination.
Capture your thoughts
Anything that involves substantial time or effort invariably needs planning, preparation and a focused mind. Procrastination spreads like a bug in minds that are unclear and fuzzy. That means you need to free yourself up from the burden of remembering the little things and day-to-day distractions, and capture those thoughts onto something external, like a notepad or onto your PC. A general doesn’t plan a military strategy in his head, he uses a tactical display. Likewise, a teacher doesn’t keep his lesson plans locked in his brain, he prepares presentations and notes.
Decide what really matters
‘Someday’ disease is particularly prevalent nowadays because people are told they can do anything they want. Regardless of the truth of that, it usually means people have a lot of stuff they’d like to do but no time to fit it all in. As a result many goals have to be put off till someday regardless of best intentions. That hardly helps with the problem.
However, if you really challenge yourself, you’d probably admit half of those things you say you want do are just pipe dreams or nice sounding ideas anyway. I would like to learn a new language, go traveling around Australia and learn to play the guitar but how genuinely motivated am I to do something about it? Not very. So I’ve let those goals go for the time being.
Ask yourself what really matters to you. What do you really want to do? Don’t spread yourself thin. Identify the vital few and forget about the rest – they will only serve to distract you, and perpetuate the ‘Someday’ disease.
Break it down
This is a crucial step. Society is no longer geared towards a get-up-and-go mentality, a traditional remedy to ‘Someday’ disease. Nowadays, it seems like everything requires copious amounts of tedious paperwork, form filling and preparation in order to get any real work done. With all that confusion and baggage it’s no wonder people procrastinate. Two random examples – traveling around Europe or learning to snowboard – pose numerous hurdles before you’ve even boarded a plane or taken your first lesson. The best way to overcome that complexity and confusion is to break it down into bitesize chunks of activity.
Apply Parkinson’s law
Time management as we know it only serves to feed the ‘Someday’ disease, as discussed in a previous post about time wasting. Instead, forget what you know about managing your time and apply Parkinson’s law. Work expands to fill the time available to it, as does our perception of the complexity of that work. In other words, the more time you give to doing something, the more of that time you are likely to waste dragging it out. If your deadline for action is someday in the future, that’s a whole lot of wasted time, and a goal of starting your own business or writing a novel is naturally going to carry a lot of weight and expectation, regardless.
As stressful as the prospect of being tight with your time, and even tighter with deadlines, might seem, it is a very powerful way to spur yourself into action.
Overcome that first hurdle
Momentum. We all need it to get things done, but we vastly underestimate quite how much it effects us. The hardest part of any project is usually at the very beginning when you have no momentum to get through those first few tasks. Just contemplating it can make you feel like putting it off till later. The very beginning is typically when procrastination is at its worst.
Think of it like driving a car. Once you’ve got moving and out of first gear, the journey becomes considerably easier. In other words, be aware of that first hurdle and put extra focus into clearing it. Once you have that momentum, things will become much easier from then on (so long as you keep moving forward).