Just last week, I finally finished a project proposal, one that I've been putting off for almost two weeks. I put it off because I'd never completed a project proposal before, and didn't look forward to the idea of finding a template and rewriting words to fit my purposes. However, once I got it in, the potential client was immediately interested in what I had to offer his company. Just yesterday, we signed a contract and I am one-third of my way to this week's goal: three new clients. Now, imagine if I had gotten that project proposal done one week sooner, or even the day that I was asked to put together the proposal. I could have had this client sooner, meaning more work on my plate and eventually, more money in my pocket.
Even the best of us procrastinate from time to time. There are just projects and tasks that we dread doing, or simply have no motivation to do. It then occurred to me that you can really do something about procrastination if you treat every minute like the last minute. That way, you're always procrastinating, but you're always productive at the same time. It's a good tactic, especially if things actually do come up at the last minute, like a meeting or an interview.
Psychologists cite procrastination as a mechanism for coping with the anxiety of starting or completing a task, or in making a decision. Procrastination is only procrastination is the high-priority task is replaced by a task of these three criteria: counterproductive, delaying, and needless. Since procrastination is based on a sense of anxiety, treating every minute like the last minute may seem counter-intuitive. After all, who wants to spend every minute anxious and stressed? However, Psychology Today says that procrastination is the result of the mismanagement of emotions. When we procrastinate, there's difficulty in regulating our emotions today, as well as predicting our emotions for tomorrow. By treating every minute like the last minute, your at least taking control of your emotions and regulating how you feel day by day.
According to Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago, real procrastinators tell themselves five lies:
• They overestimate the time they have left to perform tasks.
• They underestimate the time it takes to complete tasks.
• They overestimate how motivated they will feel the next day, the next week, the next month -- whenever they are putting things off to.
• They mistakenly think that succeeding at a task requires that they feel like doing it.
• They mistakenly believe that working when not in the mood is suboptimal.
Essentially, procrastination is a problem of self-regulation, not time-management, laziness, or ambition as it is usually thought to be. By learning how to regulate ourselves, from there, we can learn how to regulate our time and our goals. By treating every minute like the last minute, we begin that process of regulation, since we are now taking control of our emotions, instead of leaving them to the whim and possibility that "I'll be motivated to do it tomorrow." By doing this, we're saying "I feel like doing it now" instead of waiting on the motivation to come.