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  • Deborah Moyer

Bye-Bye Procrastination: 5 Tips for Reaching Your Goals

We’ve all been there.

We get super excited about trying something new or want to change something in our lives for the better, but at some point, we hit a roadblock or things start to get difficult. Then we get discouraged, tell ourselves we don’t have what we need to succeed and we bail.

All you have to do is look at the well meaning, but unsuccessful attempts, people make with New Year’s Resolutions, like starting a consistent workout program, losing weight, writing a book, learning a new language or actually sticking to the monthly budget they set up as last year’s resolution.

According to Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University and author of the book “Still Procrastinating: The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done”, those of us who aren’t finishers or tend to procrastinate aren’t alone. Nearly a quarter of the worldwide population are chronic procrastinators!

So, why are there so many of us challenged by finishing what we started?

You might be surprised to hear that Ferrari feels it’s not a time management issue. You can’t give yourself more hours in a day or push pause on your calendar to accommodate your To-Do list.

What you CAN do, is manage the way you prioritize the things you want to do in a given day.

Sounds like another item for the To-Do list, right? Improving prioritization requires its own amount of focus and discipline. It requires effort to track and identify the things that are filling our day and keeping us from having the energy or the inclination to finish a task, even one we truly want to complete.

It will come as no surprise to you that part of what creates this perceived “lack of time” is the sheer volume of things we are required to keep track of throughout our normal day-to-day lives.

In an article by Jane Porter on the subject, she quotes Gloria Mark, a professor at the University of California – Irvine, who says research indicates we’re interrupted, on average, every 3 minutes of the day because of distractions. Whether it’s a phone call, text, e-mail, TV program, a neighbor stops by or the dog needs a bathroom break, these activities add up in a big way by the end of the day.

Furthermore, Porter says, these distractions are “self-imposed”, meaning we have a choice in focusing our attentions on them instead of sticking with a project with a higher priority.

Another factor that contributes to a low completion rate is that we often don’t set specific completion deadlines for these tasks. Without a deadline, time just gets away from us and before we know it, we’ve added it to the “purgatory of incompletion” pile.

Turns out there are also some emotional and psychological ramifications that result from consistently leaving projects unfinished. We’ve all felt that sting of self-incrimination from knowing we could have done better in meeting our goals.

Not only are we feeling awful because we’ve “failed” to meet our goal, but often, we go down the “I’m not good enough” rabbit hole by starting up a negative internal dialog that only serves to fuel a sense of low self-esteem.

On the plus side, there’s a HUGE psychological boost to our sense of accomplishment and pride when we achieve a goal. It releases those wonderful endorphins, our ‘feel good’ hormone, into our system that helps relieve stress, support our immune system and gives us a sense of well-being.

These days, we ALL could use a healthy dose of that, right?

So, what can we do to increase our chances of finishing the tasks or projects that we feel would improve our lives or give us a sense of achievement?

Here’s what health professionals recommend:

1. Find an accountability partner.

Finding a person that you trust, who will hold you accountable to your tasks deadline, will increase your probability of completion by 65%! If you hold regular weekly meetings with them to go over your progress, it increases the probability of success to a whopping 95%! Wow!

2. Create a reward for yourself when you complete the task.

Sometimes we need a little extra something to look forward to, in addition to the thrill of completing the task, that will push us closer to our goals. We’re human after all!