Putting an end to procrastination is not about being smarter; it is about creating smarter goals. You may have heard this advice about time management, “Winners Focus, Losers spray.” Procrastinators often get off into distractions and land up doing many other things than what they intend. Thus, the living room is still unpainted, the car continues to needs a tune up, the Christmas cards remain on the dining room table unmailed, and you still can’t park your car in the garage.

My husband is a “sprayer,” so I have witnessed this up close and personal. “Honey, the light is out in the back bathroom. Will you please put a new one in?” I ask sweetly. Nice guy that he is he replies, “Sure, no problem. I’ll just go into the garage and get a new bulb.” Twenty minutes later he comes back, not realizing that he has derailed himself looking for a tool that he misplaced over the weekend. As he turns toward the hallway that leads to the bathroom his eyes light on a magazine that just came in the mail. He picks it up and begins to leaf through it while standing in readiness, bulb in hand. An article takes his fancy and he reads more deeply, still poised for flight. I remind him of the dark bathroom, and as he goes down the hall he notices that the light is on in his office and he forgot to turn his computer off. A half hour later the phone rings and he gets up from his computer to speak with a good friend for an hour. You know the rest. The bathroom is forgotten for now, and the light is still out. That is an example of expert spraying, and spraying is for losers.

Winners focus, so the first step in successfully moving forward to completing a project is to set S.M.A.R.T. goals. ”S” stands for specific and concrete. Sandy’s goal is to fix up her bedroom. What does “fix up” mean? Is she going to paint it, get new furniture, pick up her clothes, or all of these? If Sandy says that she is going to paint the walls, buy a new bed and a new spread we know exactly what her goal is. She will be able to give herself a pat on the back when she has accomplished it.

“M” means measurable. Wendy’s goal is to lose weight. Bravo! But although it is specific it is not measurable. How much weight does Wendy want to lose? If she sets out to lose ten pounds she will know when she is successful by looking at the scale. Without a number to shoot for she will never reach her goal and will feel miserable.

“A” is for Attainable. Sometimes we overestimate our ability to reach our goal. Speaking of weight, I once taught a weight control class that met for 8 weeks. One attendee, Lupe, set a goal of losing 20 pounds in that time despite my warning about setting herself up for disappointment. Sure enough, on the last night, when others were smiling at reaching their goal of losing 10 pounds, Lupe was in the back row, sobbing because she felt like a failure because she had only lost 18 pounds (more than anyone else in the class).

“R” is the one most people have difficulty with. “R” means reasonable and fair. Many goals are specific, measurable and attainable, but, in your heart of hearts, it feels like punishment. If you think you “should,” it most likely means that it is someone else’s desire for you. This is where Bill dropped by the wayside. He insisted that running 10 miles a day, seven days a week was a SMART goal. But Bill had a full time job and was attending school at night. The unreasonable expectation of finding time for exercise every day with that kind of schedule set him up for failure.

“T” stands for Timely. You may have the best goal in the world, and it’s specific, measurable, attainable, and reasonable, but your in-laws are coming to stay with you for a month or you are having hip replacement surgery next week. See what I mean?

Get your head out of the clouds and back to earth. Unless your goal meets all five criteria you may be sabotaging yourself before you begin. Get SMART.

Author's Bio: 

Gloria Arenson, MS, MFT, D.CEP specializes in using EFT to treat stress, anxiety, trauma, depression, phobias, and compulsions. Her extensive knowledge of eating disorders and compulsive behaviors led her to write How to Stop Playing the Weighting Game, A Substance Called Food, Born To Spend, the award winning Five Simple Steps to Emotional Healing, and co-author Freedom At Your Fingertips. She is Past President of the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP).