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Stop procrastination. Start doing what you really want

By Smriti Modi
October 01, 2015 10:27 IST
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Kaal Kare So Aaj Kar, Aaj Kare So UbPal Mein Pralaya Hoyegi, Bahuri Karoge Kab! 

(Do tomorrow's work today, today's work now. If the moment is lost, when will you get to it).

Stop procrastinating now

If you have grown up in India this couplet has been recited to you more than a few times -- some of the most quoted words of saint Kabir.

You have also very promptly replied to it by this clever spoof:

"Aaj Kare To Kal Kar, Kal Kare So Parso, Itni Jaldi Kion Padi Hai, Jab Jina Hai Barso!"

(Do today's work tomorrow, tomorrow's work the day-after. What's the rush, there is a lot of time ahead).

Procrastination, a universal bad habit we all know we have but we don't get rid of it.

We all are guilty of putting off that project we have to finish, that e-mail we have to send, that phone call we have to make.

And while building The Itch List I realised, we don't just procrastinate about work that we 'have' to do but also about the things we 'really' want to do.

The recipe we want to try, the yoga class we want to join, the holiday we want to take.

Somehow, despite our best intentions, we never seem to get any closer to doing it.

Most women are brilliant multitaskers, we willingly play many different roles in a lifetime and in a day!

Procrastination isn't a lack of intention to do the stuff, it's the difficulty of following through on that intention.

Putting things off for later isn't a fun experience.

It's not like blowing off a meeting or a class and feeling the freedom of rebellion; it's an uncomfortable feeling of continuously building anxiety.

There are tonnes of articles and books out there that illustrate and guide how time management and planning is crucial for.

I am not sure how many of us actually follow what we read and ironically, reading that article also adds up to the procrastinating time.

I wanted to share what has worked for me and for the community I am building.

Many of our members are superwomen.

Like, Medhavi who rocks her demanding job at TCS with a very active social life, weekly badminton practice and a week long trek every 3 months.

Or Deepti, whose passion to travel the road less travelled was not deterred when she had a baby five years ago.

Her daughter has already gone hot-air ballooning, made cow-dung cakes in a village, travelled to remote villages in Russia and a lot more.

So here are my learnings, I can't guarantee that these will work for you. But, I can guarantee that they will not work if you never try them.

Face the Fear!

It's easy to live with the "Someday I will" promise. It's harder to just take action.

To risk looking like a fool. To make mistakes, stumble and feel that pain. To take responsibility for that action.

People procrastinate because they are afraid of the result.

The easier choice gives a sense of comfort for some time but also pangs of regret for all the things you never dared to do and a vague sense of being unful?lled.

You wonder about what would have happened if you had taken more action and more chances.

If you think you might have a brilliant idea for a 'new-mommy' app, roll with it.

Make the harder choice. Will it become the next billion dollar app? Well, who knows? But it will sure make your feel more alive.

Take baby steps

Big goals can be terrifying.

You get overwhelmed by them and start sur?ng the internet aimlessly instead.

That is one of the reasons why it is good to plan for the future but then to shift your focus back to today and the present moment.

By taking that huge goal and breaking it down into few concrete steps, you help yourself get started.

So instead of thinking, 'I want a 26-inch waistline' think, 'I have to start the Pilates class tomorrow.'

When you are break down a goal into small, immediate, and speci?c tasks, the more speci?c the better.

Instead of deciding 'I am going to write more often' decide, 'I will write seven hundred words by four o'clock.'

If you work on a task for a short time, and enjoy it, you are most likely to stick to it. Before you know it, they will all add up.

Set a date

We have experienced the naturally occurring motivation as deadlines approach.

At our jobs, we would never cancel a client presentation or keep postponing it.

Yet, when you're working independently on writing a novel, or when it comes to personal dreams like running a marathon, we'll just set vague goals.

We will either never have deadlines or feel perfectly comfortable pushing back our self-imposed deadlines.

There is no doubting your intentions but in the avalanche of work that came your way when a colleague went on leave, or because you had guests at home you completely forgot about those tasks.

Set priorities, write them down, put them on calendar.

If you like, make your intentions public.

This will add pressure, but at times avoiding embarrassment is a big motivator. The positive side of 'log kya kahenge.'

Recharge yourself

Wednesday-evening cocktails with friends seem frivolous when you hardly see your hubby and kids.

Many start-up founders, especially mothers are ?ghting a quiet battle with depression, the stress of starting a successful company that will change the world and the responsibility of introducing the world to a new human being.

It is exhausting. Don't get there, take some time to de-stress.

If you just don't have the time to socialise: multitask.

Schedule a workout with your best friend. Have a girls' day out at the spa salon.

Go camping with your kids. There's no point in feeling guilty for having fun.

Working yourself ragged to burn-out isn't going to increase your chances of success. But, rejuvenating will certainly make you more ef?cient.

Why do you want to do it anyway?

If you're struggling to get something done, why not spend some time thinking more deeply about exactly why you want to do it.

Sometimes, procrastination can be a sign that what we're working on the wrong thing.

You may be convinced that encouraging people to read books is your purpose in life and have been thinking about a book delivery platform since college.

But if you find yourself procrastinating about it day in and day out, week after week, month after month, year after year, maybe you're not doing what you're meant to do.

Maybe it's time to review your goal, get a new job, switch careers, find your true passion.

As Sir Isaac Newton discovered long ago, objects at rest tend to stay at rest and objects in motion tend to stay in motion.

This is just as true for humans as it is for falling apples. Get moving. Go!

Lead image used for representational purposes only. Image: Hartwig HKD/Creative Commons

The author Smriti Modi is helping people achieve their big and small dreams through her start-up The Itch List.

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Smriti Modi