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Stop dithering – DO IT NOW

Updated on January 9, 2015

Positive approach to task completion

We have 24 hours in a day, no more, no less and yet we can spend a lot of that time actually avoiding tasks. Maybe it is submitting our tax return, delay ringing a friend, put off startng that project our boss expects us to complete. Procrastination, dithering, vacillation – call it what you will, just why do we put off doing what we should do and need to do? The very thing that we are avoiding is so often the thing that will make a difference to us.

There are some basic psychologies going on in this avoidance and by looking at the reasons we can start to create tactics to help us GET ON WITH IT.

Why and what can we do about it?

Some people are so hung up about getting a perfect outcome that they can’t even get started. They have set themselves unrealistically high standards that they are unable to envision the final outcome. Of course it will depend upon what it is that you are required to do, e.g. a project will require research but how much do you realistically need to do to draw conclusions and justify your method- agree this with your manager/customer. Adopt the premise of “good enough”.

A task seems so huge that we may become overwhelmed and can’t decide where to start, so avoid starting it at all. Where you have a large project to complete, for example, the strategy here is break it into smaller components or mini-projects. Diarise when you will start each section, what milestones you will achieve and the date for the final completion. Use any reminder system that works for you: it may be electronic diary on your phone or perhaps a friend or coach who will remind you and ask you about your progress. You can plan out a route to complete your overall task and if all elements are equally important you can start anywhere, not necessarily in a chronological order

We may fear failure and we subconsciously think it is better not to start something in case we fail. Which is a pity because you would never really know if you could have succeeded. Consider for a minute the worst case: how bad would it be? Is it worse than not doing it at all? If you end up in a mess, what would you learn from it? Anyone who has never made a mistake has never learned anything! What steps could you put in place to help your success? Perhaps you need more knowledge about the subject or need to think about the resources that you require including asking other people for help. Envision what a successful outcome would look like and how you would feel. This can help your motivation as you put that vision into reality.

You think that you need to be in the right mood to make a start. Actually that is the wrong way round. The “right mood” may never manifest itself like that but if you just make a start, saying to yourself that you will give it a particular amount of time, you will find that you become engaged and with practice you can find that you reach a state of flow. Any journey starts with a single step no matter how far away or difficult your journey’s end may appear. Occasionally, review how far you have come and congratulate yourself. Keep your goal in mind and in knowing how far you have come, understand that you can do more.

You may tell yourself that you work better under pressure and think that you’ll leave things to the last minute. You may well be fooling yourself and you are opening up yourself to stress which can actually result in inertia. Of course by leaving things to the last minute, unpredictable events such as illness, equipment failure can undermine you.

So to recap,

  • We seek perfection: perfectionism is illusory
  • We feel inadequate and fear failure
  • We feel uncomfortable because we lack knowledge or skills
  • We feel overwhelmed by our perception that the task is too great

To remedy these barriers:

  • Define and agree the standards for the completed product
  • Break down large tasks into smaller ones
  • Be realistic about how difficult the task will be
  • Plan out tasks and commit to a completion date
  • Use a reliable reminder system
  • Work out what resources you need
  • Who you can ask for help? You don’t always have to go it alone
  • Envision your success
  • Make a start to get into the mood
  • Occasionally review how far you have come and congratulate yourself
  • Your confidence will grow as you make positive steps to attain your goal

What are you waiting for!


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