Four Steps to Forsake Procrastinating as a Lifestyle

December 22, 2017

Physicians and practice administrators are subject to procrastination like the rest of us. Here are steps to avoid this bad habit.

For most of my life I had been a procrastinator. I would take care of something else instead of the matter at hand. That "something else" would be important, so at least when I finished, I had accomplished something significant. Procrastinators who dawdle don't tackle the matter at hand and don't even tackle secondary matters. When they're through dawdling, they still have quite a bit to handle.

Years ago, I stumbled on a realization. If I tackled the matter at hand - the most important task or project facing me - and took it all the way to completion, this would be my best approach for high productivity, day after day. What's more, I would feel good about my accomplishment, and be in position to tackle other matters as they unfolded. This is a good strategy for physicians and practice administrators alike.

Self-Reinforcing

This method of proceeding each day started to become self-reinforcing. No matter how unpalatable or unpleasant the thought of tackling some vital issue might have been, it felt so good once I did tackle it that it became second nature. Everything started to go better. I even liked myself better for developing this new habit.

In essence, I became an anti-procrastinator. In time, I sought the most difficult, most challenging tasks confronting me, and tackled them head on. For whatever reason, and however it happened, I was able to reverse a decades-old habit of putting off such tasks. Today, when recalling those years when I was a champion procrastinator, I shudder. Why did I ever put myself through that mental consternation?

I could not understand then, as I understand now, that regardless of whether you procrastinate or tackle the matter at hand without delay - what I call being a self-starter - either way, you experience some anxiety, some trepidation, and some concern.

One Path

Only one path leads to you feeling great about yourself and what you've accomplished. The other path keeps you in a state of concern. Here are some supporting steps on the winning path:

1) First Things First -Begin by tackling the primary task confronting you, no matter how unpleasant the initial feeling might be, recognizing that the unpleasant feeling will dissipate once you actually initiate the task. Soon, tackling the important challenge at hand will become second nature to you because the positive strokes you derive become so strong that you will not want to forsake this way of proceeding. Your productivity will rise and your self-regard will rise.

2) Make a Roster - Buoyed by your early success, make a roster of everything you've been putting off. This could be a long list... but no matter. Pick one task you'll tackle this week. Stay focused and don't fret about the others on the list.

3) Develop the Habit - With two victories under your belt, commit to completing a third within a given time frame. After round three, you might not need to read anymore articles about procrastination.

4) Reward and Acknowledge - Continually give yourself silent self-praise for your achievements and feel free to reward yourself as well (in the form of engaging in some activity that you enjoy doing and for which you never procrastinate).

In perspective, the switch from being a procrastinator to a self-starter has changed me professionally and personally. The same can happen to you.