Defeat Procrastination: the influence of small achievements

Defeat Procrastination: the influence of small achievements

One of the key reasons we do not act on important activities on our to-do list is procrastination. If we do not overcome procrastination, we will keep shying away from important tasks that will deliver the results we truly need to achieve our key goals. Procrastination derives most of its power from our fear of the unknown. If you stop to think, you often tend to procrastinate on activities you have not done before – something you know is important in moving forward toward your goal, but is not part of your normal routine.

The hesitation in attempting something new derives from our fear that we may not succeed or do a good job of it. Oftentimes, since we don’t know how to go about it, we tend to avoid the task. Many times, I dread a task but when I finally face it squarely and gather the data I need to accomplish the task, I realize that it was not so difficult after all.

We keep hearing negative voices in our heads painting all sorts of doomsday scenarios. The more we think about it, the more we become paralyzed and postpone the ‘evil’ day by doing something we are used to – going for a walk, watching TV, browsing the internet, attending to an easier task, etc. Also, it may be something we have done before, like cleaning the house, writing an article or book, etc. but when we look at the whole task (which may have accumulated due to procrastination), it seems overwhelming. We quickly look for a way out by offering ourselves excuses why we should postpone it even further.

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The best way to ‘eat an elephant’ is to chew bite-size pieces. The journey of a thousand miles, according to a Chinese proverb, starts with a step, not with a mile. What are the important tasks that scare you the most? What tasks have you been avoiding, rolling them over from one to-do list to the next? It is time to look it in the eye and go for a small win. Look for a small portion you can tackle, even a tiny bit and just do it immediately. That is one of the secrets to overcoming procrastination – take bits you can manage, no matter how small or tiny, and complete them. Then take another bit…

If it is a book you want to write, you can start with ideas about the title. If you get stuck in that, you can start with what the book is about. Just do something, no matter how small. Do not be afraid of making mistakes. After you have done it, allow yourself to celebrate, and then have another go.

The effectiveness of achieving small victories lies in the momentum they create, which is the driving force that propels things forward even after the initial push. Just like when you push a car or an object on wheels on a flat surface, once it starts moving and gaining speed, it continues to move even after you let go. This is the power of momentum. By consistently completing manageable tasks, you experience a sense of accomplishment that motivates you to keep going. Gradually, these small achievements add up, leading to significant progress and diminishing the fear associated with the task. Overcoming procrastination becomes easier as you tackle each small step, making the process enjoyable.

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Alcoholics Anonymous uses this concept well. You are not asked to stay sober for the rest of your life. Just stay sober for one day, and then the next, and then the next. Soon days turn into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years, all through taking it one day at a time. The same principle can be applied to any task. Just commit to sticking through for 30 minutes, and then another 30 minutes until you are ready to call it a day. Then repeat the process tomorrow.

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There is nothing you want to do that nobody has done before. Even if you are inventing something, the process is the same. Decide what you want to achieve or your key goals. Itemize important tasks you need to accomplish to move you forward toward that goal. If you have an existing to-do list, chances are, you already have some or all of those tasks listed, but you have been avoiding them, going for low-hanging fruits that have a negligible impact overall. Face your most important tasks and look for what you can do in 30 minutes as stated above. Take it step by step and enjoy the ride.

Instead of waiting for everything to fall into place and for the right mood to strike, take action now. If saving a million naira seems overwhelming, start by saving a hundred naira a day. If starting a business feels like a daunting task, begin by creating a sample and seeking feedback from others. Regardless of the obstacles you face, as long as you have identified them, do not allow procrastination to hinder your progress. Overcome procrastination by choosing a task that you can easily accomplish and simply get it done. By consistently moving forward towards your desired destination, you will eventually reach it. It is only a matter of time.

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