by Jane Anderson, Columnist & Featured Contributor
IF YOU HAVE BEEN READING my book reviews for a while now or if this is your very first one, you will note that I attempt to write a survey of the book rather than a few well-crafted sentences that offer reasons why you might want to read the book. Let me tell you that in this case, the title of the book alone is compelling enough to persuade me to read it. In fact, encountering Beyond Procrastination: How to Stop Postponing Your Life on my end table every day was all the impetus I needed to start practicing the tactics found in this book. We are going to touch every chapter in this book and I’m so convinced that you will identify with the same hurdles to productivity that I experience I’m leaving the chapter titles intact.
Why We Procrastinate
Where to start? The reasons we procrastinate are as unique and varied as the people who procrastinate. There are legitimate reasons, sometimes beneficial to our task, but other times we are just dragging our feet and delay to the detriment of whatever project we’re working on. While this book is written for the frustrated, chronic procrastinator, it will be helpful to anyone who needs some help getting started or reenergized to continue a project to completion. The author, Renate Reimann, advised using this three step method to get procrastinators headed in the right direction.
- Identify the reason you procrastinate.
- Learn techniques that eliminate your procrastination.
- Implement new productive and sustainable behaviors.
For extra help and incentive, there are many “Beyond Procrastination Tricks” sprinkled throughout the book. I have found this text to be like a playbook for stuck projects. Right up front the author provides a tool she labels “This is when I get stuck”. I read the list checking more things off than I wanted to admit. As Renate says, “Being able to consciously address the hot spots is the crucial first step toward a more productive life”.
Why can’t I get things done? The reasons for procrastination are often hidden deep in our sub-conscious mind. We often underestimate the time it will take us to do a project. Believe it or not, finding this to be true often backfires and tempts us to procrastinate even more. Being in a disorganized environment can feel like chaos and be a hurdle to productivity. Creating a system of order that makes sense to you helps you stride past that hurdle and frees you to make progress. Do any of these sound familiar? Fear of failure, hating some of the tasks that are part of the project, feeling like you don’t know enough or that the environment has turned too competitive. A strong remedy for procrastination is being fully aware of the whys.[message type=”custom” width=”100%” start_color=”#F0F0F0 ” end_color=”#F0F0F0 ” border=”#BBBBBB” color=”#333333″]
Techniques to Overcome Procrastination
At the end of the day I feel like I’ve achieved nothing Please tell me that I’m not the only one who sails through a day and at the end can’t point to one single accomplishment. This was one of the most helpful chapters to me because it addressed common deterrents to achievement by prescribing some clear action items. Many of them are well known, such as setting priorities. Where this book helps is in the tools the author provides to work through, in playbook fashion, exercises that help readers internalize the process. From where to start, to how to set boundaries for people who might get in your way, and learning to identify and respond to internal distractions.
If only I could create some order! Sound familiar? I learned years ago to open mail with a trash can and shredder nearby. That’s the easy part, but our craving for organization stretches far beyond the mailbox. The author give us a tool for creating a blueprint for designing and organizing our workspace. A tip I’ve taken to heart and began practicing right away (even amidst my clutter) is to complete something even if it’s a very small task. I promise you that even that small task will be a morale booster. To be totally transparent here, one of the things I procrastinate most, is organizing my workspace – no, not getting it organized – keeping it organized. If that sounds like you, read and ignite action after reading chapter 4.
This is too big. I can’t wrap my head around it If you’ve had any experience with tech writing, you will know how this one pervades many assignments. I don’t know anyone who isn’t constantly learning new things. Sometimes there are so many moving parts it really is difficult to know where to start.
Sometimes the first step is complicated and it only increases in complexity. Use divide and conquer techniques and start to break the project into smaller pieces. Ask for help. Find experts or others who can help you absorb the knowledge you need to gain forward momentum. If you’ve had to estimate and define project tasks the tool developed for this chapter will sound familiar. Create a calendar by planning backward. Having used this tool, I can guarantee its effectiveness.
I hate doing this We had to get here, didn’t we? No matter how much we love our work, there will be those irritating factors that we just do not like to do. These are the tasks that we have to just start. We can stomp around, fume, fuss, and project our aversion onto others, but in the end, the show must go on. Right? Here’s a few tips before you read the chapter. Start small and promise yourself you’ll work on the undesirable task for a short 5-minute period. Plan a reward – then go ahead and reward yourself.
I am too scared to act Let’s admit it right up front. Fear is real. Or more accurately your fear is real to you. Zig Ziglar says, “Fear is: False Evidence Appearing Real.” Whether anyone else shares your fear, it is real to you and it prevents you from accomplishing things that are unfamiliar to you. Fear of failure is especially pervasive when planning future goals that right now make you feel uncomfortable or inferior. This book is a goldmine for learning to confront your fears and actually become motivated by them.
If it isn’t perfect it’s worth nothing Perfectionism seems like a worthwhile aspiration until we realize it’s a worthless goal. Perfectionism can turn productivity on its side and completely impede progress. Be aware of thoughts and habits that hold you back because they don’t meet your standard of perfection. The tools offered in this chapter will help with reforming perfectionistic standards to “good enough” – without making you feel guilty or falling into the pit of sabotaging your efforts because you can’t get away from needing to be perfect.
Nobody tells me what to do! I was curious about this chapter title because I haven’t ever witnessed someone at work having that attitude. But as I read the chapter, I realized this happens more often than we like to admit. Someone, maybe you, agrees to do something because it needs to be done – then when it comes time to work on it, apathy escalates because it is the one thing you don’t want to do – not for any reason. Whether it be a chore you despise or because it’s not in your skillset or because it detracts from more important duties. The key when overcoming this form of procrastination is diffusing the issues before rebellion, resentment, and conflict set in. Yes, there are ways to resolve these issues and the author has designed some excellent tools to support them.
If I don’t keep up, I would be so last century How many times have you heard that ‘things change’ and ‘we are upgrading’ and ‘there’s new functionality’ and ‘we now have revolutionary change where it used to be evolutionary’? That’s what I thought about while digesting this chapter. The pressure to keep learning dominates our thoughts because everything changes The author doesn’t provide a solution for change, but she does have suggestions for maintaining your sanity while keeping your core values so, “you can stay competitive without losing yourself”. I’m not competitive so I appreciated the pep talk on reframing my mindset and coming to terms with honoring my core needs, letting go of things that aren’t important to me, and focusing on what I really want my life to be.
But my job is my life I’m trying to change my relationship with my work so I don’t think I am my job but instead my job is a reflection of me. For that reason this chapter glows with sentiment about finding balance and establishing patterns that facilitate that balance. We learn about frenetic procrastination that results from being on overload, procrastination that results from lack of challenge or interest in work, and procrastination from just plain being worn out.[/message]
How to stay the course From the beginning, this book has been woven through with a common thread, understanding why and how we procrastinate. We need to be aware and that means using tools that reveal reasons for procrastination and how to motivate ourselves when we see procrastination as a hurdle to be circumvented. We need to go through discovery then form different responses, attitudes and habits. Reading this book won’t be the change. We need to be the change. The book provides the evidence, the insight, the ideas, the tools. Our part is to use what we’ve learned to instill new thoughts and form new habits and not give up.
We need to learn what our triggers are and what actions we can take to propel ourselves over the procrastination hurdles as we come upon them. A surprising end of the book is the hallmark of what the book represents. Remember in the beginning of this book survey I mentioned running into many “Beyond Procrastination Tricks” sprinkled throughout the book? Well, that’s true but Renate Reimann saved the best for last. Here are just two ‘tricks’ she advises in the final chapters of her book.
- Make a list of 5 accomplishments. We all have successes. Let’s celebrate them.
- Write down 5 things you are grateful for right now.
Living with an attitude of gratitude will change your life. Let’s not procrastinate on being grateful.