One way to tackle procrastination

A monumental task only seems so because the endpoint seems so far out of reach.

So it is with me with any number of day-to-day tasks or creative activities I undertake. The bigger the task seems in my head, the more difficult I find getting things started.

What’s stopping me getting started is the expectation I have that I should know every single step I need to take in order to complete the task before I get started. If I don’t know every step, I’ll doubt I can complete the task. So, I become unwilling to get started.

 has a useful take on this stance.

Mine is a classic example of procrastination.

We might take a moment to examine the word procrastination too, and in particular its connotations.

Approach the word procrastination with objectivity

Strictly speaking, the definition of procrastination is the act of delaying or postponing something.

Confront that definition with an objective eye, and there are plenty of reasons why delaying or postponing might be sensible or pragmatic. Yet we all use the term procrastination with a negative connotation. It’s often deployed with derogatory intent.

Little wonder an inability to get something started becomes doubly-hard when we recognise we’re procrastinating. A terrifying loop of negativity is created, and the task remains even more unlikely to get started on.

There’s a classic question in the coaching process which comes in useful when tackling procrastination: what’s the next step? The thinking being that instead of thinking about everything that needs to be done, think instead of only one thing.

And whilst I’ve got you thinking about that, you might as well think of this …

What’s the smallest step you could possibly take in pursuit of the end goal?

That question helped me out my stuckness around some video editing this afternoon. It’s only a 5 minute video I’ve got to put together. It’s not a documentary or a feature film. Just five minutes. That’s all.

What was the smallest step I could take to get started on the video editing? I settled on two steps I was willing to take. I promised myself I’d devote 30 minutes to doing a little bit on the project. I said I’d start up the software, and concentrate on the first 30 seconds of the film and no more.

And once I’d started the software and looked at what I needed to change in the first 30 seconds of the film, I was engrossed.

Labelling your inability to get started on the job-in-the-hand isn’t an especially useful thing, I don’t think. Nor is thinking about the end goal every minute of every day. Sure, keep it in mind, but don’t let it dominate your thinking. If you do, you may struggle to get even the smallest of tasks underway.

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