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By Barry D. Ham Ph.D.
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Procrastination is something that we all deal with from time to time. Some may deal with it more than others. For some it may be almost a way of life where others may only deal with it periodically. Either way, procrastination can hold up our progress and delay success. So, how do we shift from procrastination to acceleration? It starts by understanding the meaning behind these two words as well as the root of what causes procrastination. Once we know that, we can develop a plan for our own lives that moves us from a mode of procrastination to a mode of acceleration.
So, let's look at the definition of these two words first. Procrastination means, "to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done." Acceleration means, "to cause faster or greater activity, development, progress, advancement, etc." As you can see by the definitions, to procrastinate is the opposite of to accelerate. In terms of a vehicle, the gas pedal is often referred to as the accelerator. You could refer to the brake as the procrastinator. Remember when you learned to drive? They taught you to only use your right foot so that your foot was either on the brake or on the gas, not on both at the same time. You're either braking or your accelerating. Okay, so that's great, you know the definition, but you still don't know what to do with this to break the habit of procrastination.
I did some research on what causes procrastination in people. Again, we all deal with it. I deal with it in certain areas, more on a periodic level. In my job, I typically don't procrastinate anything but in my personal life I procrastinate some things, I put some things off until a later date. I've heard some people say they work better under pressure and under tight deadlines, that's why they procrastinate. That may be true, you may be one of those, but if you had a plan to break procrastination is it possible that you would find that maybe you actually work better with a plan, not under pressure and not dealing with tight deadlines? Maybe a plan that removes procrastination and promotes acceleration?
Causes of Procrastination
Let's look for a minute at what causes procrastination. I did some research and found some interesting details. Studies show that some people procrastinate because they learned this from a role model. Some are focused more on the present gains and not as focused on the future gains that can be obtained through not procrastinating. Perfectionism is another reason for putting things off while others deal with depression and anxiety that cause procrastination, and sometimes, it's simply a lack of interest in the task you must complete. Through all my research, however, the one reason that stuck out to me the most for procrastination is fear. A deep-rooted fear of failure is one of the major causes to putting things off until later.
Fear of failure is something we all deal with and that, in itself, has a root that I don't have time to get into, maybe in a later writing. Whether you realize it or not, we live in a spiritual world and there is a battle to get you off track. God wants you successful, He wants you to accelerate. Satan wants you to fail, he wants you to procrastinate and one of the greatest tools he uses is fear. Proverbs 20:4 in The Living Bible says: "If you won't plow in the cold, you won't eat at the harvest." In other words, you must prepare in the early, cold months, when the ground is bare to reap a harvest in the later months. I know what you're thinking, "This is great, but still, how do I break procrastination, so I can start operating in acceleration?" Here are a few quick tips.
Whether procrastination is a common, everyday occurrence in your life or if it is something that periodically comes and goes, these simple tips can help you take your foot off the procrastinator and put it on the accelerator. One of the biggest steps you can take, and you've heard me mention this in other writings, is plan your day. Make a list of what you need to accomplish and make a list of what you want to accomplish. On top of making a list, put a timeline on each item. If you don't meet the timeline don't beat yourself up, just adjust the timeline accordingly. This simple task gives you a list of what needs to happen to avoid distraction and being pulled off onto other things and it gives you a goal and a drive. Whether we realize or not we are designed to be goal oriented so when you set a goal with a time you naturally work towards meeting that goal. When you make a list and set a timeline it also removes the element of fear of failure. You may have some fear, but you basically overlook the fear in order to meet the goal. Rather than just going through the day haphazardly and hoping you get things accomplished, you now become intentional about getting something done. It promotes acceleration. Start with your list of, this is what I have to accomplish and if you get through that, start working on the list of what I want to accomplish. You will find at the end of the day, you feel like you made progress, even if you only completed one task on your list! Then, the next day you start where you left off the day before and make a new list. This process takes the guessing out of your day and it encourages you that you can make progress and accelerate instead of procrastinating.
There's so much more I could write, and I will in later writings, this is enough for now, take these simple steps and begin to build on them. It's time to go from procrastination to acceleration.