Are you a procrastinator? Do you put off doing important tasks until the last minute? How about your LifeVision? Have you been excited to write it, thrilled at the concept of achieving your goals and manifesting your dreams, and then let it sit half completed while you played Candy Crush on your phone?
Like many people, I struggle with procrastination. For me, this bad habit started in school when I was assigned to write a book report or research paper. I felt anxiety about starting a project that I knew from the beginning would not be perfect. I couldn’t even write a rough draft; I kept correcting it as I went. That process wouldn’t slow me down much now, but back in the age of typewriters, when all we had were erasers and white-out to fix our mistakes, it took eons. I used to put off beginning an assignment as long as possible by distracting myself with other tasks – cleaning my room, organizing my closet, weeding our family garden, playing solitaire – you know, really important stuff. Fortunately for my GPA, every paper assigned to me had a deadline. If it was due on Friday morning at 8:00, I started it Thursday night at 10:00, stayed up all night, and turned it in on time. Every time I did this, I promised that I would start sooner the next time. But I never did.
Now that I’m a grownup, I still have a bit of trouble with procrastination. I still wait to begin something until I’m pretty sure I’ll like how it turns out. If there is a deadline attached to a task, such as getting the house cleaned because company is coming or preparing a presentation for a business meeting, I get it done on time – barely. I still find myself staying up late the night before something is due, but it gets done. My real problem with procrastination is when I have a task to do which has no deadline. For many years I had vague plans and ideas about decorating my master bedroom. After we had been in our home for 16 years, I bought a comforter and some coordinating pillows. A few years later I picked up some paint samples and put a swipe or two of each on the wall to see which one I liked best. A few years after that, my housekeeper saw the different-colored sections of wall and asked if I was getting ready to paint the room. I was embarrassed to tell her how long my wall had been like that. With a little push from her (and an offer to paint the room for a bargain price), after 24 years living in our home, I now have non-white walls that match my not-so-new-anymore comforter.
I realized, after the paint dried, and after pondering on the many other projects I had put off for too long, that time flies – whether you’re having fun or not. We lived in our home for 24 years with an ugly master bedroom. We could have painted it when we first moved in! I also thought about my college degree. I left school in 1984 when my husband graduated and got a job out of the area. I was only 21 credits short of a bachelor’s degree in English, but we lived too far from the college for me to finish. Then I started having and raising children. College completion slipped from the priority list. In 2005, my university began offering degree-completion programs through independent study, so I registered. I thought it wouldn’t take too long to finish only 21 credit hours. But then I discovered that I would be allowed one year to complete each class. Guess how long it took me to finish each class? A year! And I only took one class at a time! Lucky for me, there was a 7-year deadline on completing all coursework, so I finished eventually. My point here is that in 2005, I could have decided not to finish college. In 2011 when I graduated, I looked back to that decision to go back to school and was very happy – even though it took longer than I thought it would. I was happy that I had done it. Instead of being 49 years old without a college degree, I was 49 years old with one. I had started, and I had finished.
If you struggle with procrastination like I do, your LifeVision is probably somewhere between your brain and your smartphone, unfinished. There is no deadline to help you – no promise of an award, an “A” grade, or even a pat on the back. One thing is certain, however. Whether you write and record it or not, time will pass. So what can you do to overcome your habit of procrastination? Here are some tips I’ve learned over the years that may help:
- Imagine how you will feel when your LifeVision is complete and you are jogging or driving your car, listening to it. Every morning when you get up, picture yourself listening to your recorded LifeVision and feel that feeling. The excitement will motivate you to begin.
- Change how you talk about your LifeVision. Instead of thinking and saying things like, “I should work on my financial section,” or “I have to get this done,” or “I need to get going on this,” make writing your LifeVision a conscious choice. Think and say, “I choose to write for 30 minutes today,” and “I will record my financial section at 3:00 today,” and “I want to develop my goals for my spiritual section this morning.” Attitude makes a big difference.
- Just start. If you can begin and stay on task even for fifteen minutes, the likelihood is that you will continue. If you focus on starting and not on finishing, you will feel less anxious, less pressured. I like to set a timer for fifteen minutes and just begin. If things are going well at the end of fifteen minutes I set the timer again. When I need a break I set the timer for fifteen minutes and do the dishes or some laundry. Mindless tasks like those allow me to think, and then I’m ready to work for another fifteen minutes on my LifeVison.
Time flies whether you’re having fun or not. It flies whether you complete your LifeVision or not. You can get it done and start listening to it and feel the thrill of seeing your dreams come true, or you can fret about making it perfect and leave it unfinished on your laptop. Make the choice to begin. You can do it!
Author’s note: Much of what I learned that was helpful in overcoming procrastination came from The Now Habit, by Neil Fiore, PhD. I recommend this book!