We all procrastinate sometimes. It might be that the task at hand is overwhelmingly complicated or time-consuming. Perhaps it's simply an odious or dull or thankless job that needs to be done. Who wakes up and thinks "Today I really want to clean the toilets and scrub the basement floor?"
To put off tasks routinely as a form of retaliation or avoidance is a matter to delve into another time, but sometimes it's perfectly OK to postpone a job. It's probably even better for your mental health to give yourself a break or to work your way into the proper frame of mind to handle something that's not an #i attractive proposition.
In a sense, creative procrastination is a form of time shifting -- it's something like using a videocassette recorder to tape a program for later viewing. So on those days when you just can't get started on the big things, take care of other, small but important things first. Clear your mental decks and prime your psyche with those tasks.
Then face the inevitable, but go gently. Here are some pointers to help break through the procrastination barrier:
* Face procrastination head-on. Ask yourself what's blocking you -- the real reason you don't want to get started. Write it down or tape record it. This exercise may dislodge some psychological block.
* Use the "three-to-five" method. Choose three to five easy things to do that would give you a sense of dabbling in the project. Often, initiating these "entry-level" activities provides enough motivation to get started headlong on the task.
* Jump-start yourself. Let's say it's Friday afternoon. You have a project to begin Monday. Take a few minutes to brief yourself on the project. Review the materials you'll be working with. Jot down your thoughts and ideas pertaining to the project (these "first takes" are sometimes the best ones). Make a rough outline. When your thoughts "don't really count," or aren't being judged or analyzed, they often flow more freely and creatively. And you've put your subconscious to work on the project. By Monday, you're raring to go.
* Think of the project in increments. When working on a long-term goal -- sometimes stretching several years or more in length -- it's easy to lose momentum and feel as though the job will never be done. Use the day unit as a convenient measure for charting progress.
* Columbus crossed the Atlantic in 71 days.
* John Kennedy was president for 1,037 days.
* Operation Desert Storm lasted 45 days.
Figure a unit as six hours of concentrated work in a calendar day. It may not seem that long, but if you're focused, it's plenty.
Leave yourself two hours for conditioning your environment, managing details and filing. Calculate how many day units you'll need to complete a long-term task. If you factor in weekends, holidays and other downtime, you'll come up with a manageable unit that accurately measures how long your goal will take.
Approached with the proper perspective, procrastination can lead to creativity and new perspectives for big tasks.
Jeff Davidson is a professional speaker based in Chapel Hill, N.C. He is the author of 18 books, including "Breathing Space: Living and Working at a Comfortable Pace in a Sped-up Society (Master-Media).