“If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it.” Olin Miller
Often, the task you are procrastinating over is one which you dislike, or find difficult in some way. The trouble is, the longer you put it off, the harder it gets. A task which can in reality be quite simple, can assume gigantic proportions in your mind the longer you procrastinate.
An excellent solution to procrastination has been formulated by the American mental health professional David Burns. In his book ‘Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy’, he suggests keeping a record which he calls the antiprocrastination sheet.
The Antiprocrastination Sheet
This consists of a table with six columns across it. Here you would put six headings:
- The date
- The activities or tasks you are putting off
- Predicted difficulty
- Predicted satisfaction
- Actual difficulty
- Actual satisfaction
Write down the date in the first column followed by the task or tasks in the second column, breaking it down into several small steps if the activity seems particularly large or overwhelming.
Next, write down how difficult you expect the task to be as a percentage (for example, you may note down catching up on your book-keeping as an 80% difficulty), and in the third column put down how satisfying you expect completing the task to be (also a percentage).
Now force yourself to actually do the activity you have been procrastinating over and record the results on your chart.
In the fourth column put down how difficult it was to carry out the task (as a percentage), and in the final column write down how satisfying it felt to actually complete the task.
The Rewards of Record Keeping
Recording the carrying out of difficult tasks in this way can give surprising results. It is very common to expect the task to be enormously difficult (say 80%) and the expected satisfaction to be quite low (say 10%).
The actual difficulty is likely to be much lower than you predicted, and the satisfaction of completing it much higher.
Because you have been putting off the task for so long, it magnifies to huge dimensions in your mind, and actually forcing yourself to deal with it will impose some reality on the situation. The dreaded activity is likely to be much less imposing than you imagined it to be. Whilst the relief at having achieved something which you felt to be so hard, will make your feelings of relief and satisfaction quite huge.
Keeping Up The Momentum
Completing this Antiprocrastination sheet every time you have a task which you feel reluctant to do, will encourage you to at least start the task. And starting is always the hardest thing in any task.
When you look at the completed sheets and realise that the level of difficulty is less than you imagined, and that the level of satisfaction is much greater than you imagined, then you will feel less reluctance to embark on new tasks.
As David Burns says, “You may be avoiding a particular activity because you predict it will be too difficult and unrewarding. Using the Antiprocrastination Sheet, you can train yourself to test these negative predictions.”
What Are You Waiting For?
“Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.” Robert Benchley
The more you accomplish, the less you will feel inclined to procrastinate. The Procrastination Table will keep you focused, and will remind you of the huge feelings of reward and satisfaction that will follow the achievement of each new task. Your personal confidence will grow as you achieve more, and your business will flourish as your efficiency increases.
So stop procrastinating and decide upon the tasks which you have been putting off, draw up the Antiprocrastination Table, and start achieving.