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PROCRASTINATION IS RU­IN­ING MY LIFE

Q I’m mid­dle-aged and have been in­creas­ingly look­ing back at my ca­reer and feeling like all my hopes have failed to ma­te­ri­alise. I feel this is be­cause I pro­cras­ti­nate and do tasks at the last minute and then am not im­pressed with the re­sults. I’m just not en­thused about work. How do I stop pro­cras­ti­nat­ing?

AThe adage, procrastination is the thief of time, of­ten rings true only when we look back, rather than for­ward. It can be­come a ma­jor worry when we get to our mid­dle years and be­gin to re­flect on the pur­pose of our lives. It’s nat­u­ral, so in­stead of us­ing it as a stick to beat your­self, why not see it as an op­por­tu­nity to change?

You’ve said you find it hard to get en­thu­si­as­tic when it comes to your job. Per­haps you should con­sider the big­ger pic­ture and ask your­self if it’s time to move in a new di­rec­tion ca­reer-wise.

We all put things off un­til the last minute from time to time, but if it has be­come an en­trenched be­hav­iour, it can be a sign that you need to shake things up a bit.

The first step is work­ing out what’s at the heart of your be­hav­iour. It could be that you di­vert your­self with low-level tasks to avoid the main one be­cause you are anx­ious about not do­ing a good-enough job. Avoid set­ting out very pub­lic ex­pec­ta­tions that you worry you can’t meet. Keep your cards close to your chest in fu­ture when it comes to shar­ing your ideas on a pro­ject. That way you can sur­prise rather than dis­ap­point, and not feel the bur­den of ex­pec­ta­tion.

Of­ten, pro­cras­ti­na­tors lack the skill to break down tasks into achiev­able parts. This can be due to poor or­gan­i­sa­tion abil­i­ties, so a key step is to un­der­stand whether you fall into this cat­e­gory or whether you are bored of your job.

If it’s the for­mer, then the habit can be bro­ken. Try this. At the start of each day, rank your tasks into four cat­e­gories: Ur­gent and im­por­tant; im­por­tant but not ur­gent; ur­gent, but not im­por­tant; and not ur­gent and unim­por­tant. Start at the top and work your way down. Set spe­cific times for each task to be com­pleted, then re­ward your­self when you each one off.

Break each task down into smaller steps to power through. Avoid distractions by only check­ing emails in the morn­ing, for ex­am­ple, and be­fore the end of the day, and de­vote a set amount of time to an­swer­ing them. Many pro­cras­ti­na­tors over­es­ti­mate how un­pleas­ant tasks are go­ing to be, so if you start to work in this or­dered way, you’ll get through the most chal­leng­ing things early on when you’re at your best.

But if you feel things are get­ting stale, then now might be the right time to ex­plore your pas­sions, and find some­thing that uses your tal­ents in a new way. It’s im­por­tant to look back and learn, but it’s equally vi­tal to move for­ward and see what the fu­ture holds. RUS­SELL HEMMINGS

is a life coach, and clin­i­cal and cog­ni­tive be­havioural hyp­nother­a­pist

is a nu­tri­tion­ist, di­a­betes ed­u­ca­tor and cre­ator of The Pro­tein Bake Shop

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