When I was a small child school dinners were an exquisite form of torture for me. Growing up in a Britain where for most adults food rationing was still a very real memory, waste of any kind was a cardinal sin. And so, at school meal times the food was ladled onto our plates (no question of choice) and we were closely supervised to make sure we ate up every last scrap.
My absolute horror was tinned, cooked tomatoes. Everything about them repulsed me - the taste, texture, smell, and sight! I would do anything to avoid eating those tinned tomatoes, despite the certain knowledge that, short of genuine illness (I did try faking it but was rumbled) nothing would save me from them. I would have to eat them in the end.

So I would just sit and stare balefully at them, wishing them to oblivion, watching their blood red juices taint my lovely mashed potatoes or seep into my minced beef, spoiling my pleasure in both. Other times I’d try to bribe someone to eat them for me, although this was risky as the teachers kept a beady eye on us! Another unsuccessful strategy was to try and hide them under other bits of food and then disguise them with judicious placing of my knife and fork.

Whatever I tried rarely worked. Inevitably I would end up as the last child in the dining room being strongly exhorted to eat up my tomatoes or else! Of course, by this time they would be cold and congealed on my plate and far more unpalatable and difficult to eat.

Do You Push the Tomatoes Around?
If you find you end up putting off some tasks over and over again, don’t despair. You’re in good company. We all try to hide or avoid the unpalatable tasks from time to time. However, sometimes we can procrastinate so much that it really hinders our development, at work or home. If we continually put off making that sales call, or dealing with a problem at home, we can allow it to taint our enjoyment or progress in other areas.

Are Tomato Pushers (Procrastinators) Lazy?
Well, no, not usually. They often work very hard, and usually work more hours in a day than those who manage their time better. It takes quite a bit of effort to avoid doing something. In fact, it has been estimated that if we keep stop/starting a task, i.e. pick it up, do a bit, get distracted and suddenly answer those compelling e mails that have just arrived, we can actually make a task last 500 times longer than if we just got on with it. Yet, by concentrating single-mindedly on the task it is possible to reduce the average time it takes by 50%! Each time we stop and then return to the task we have to remind ourselves where we were with it, get back in ‘the mood’, check out what we still have to do. You have to build up the momentum and rhythm again and it all adds to the time taken.

How to Procrastinate
There is a multiplicity of reason why we sometimes put off doing things. They include:
Feeling completely overwhelmed by the size or scope of the task and not knowing where to start
Thinking that we don’t have the required skills or experience to do it
Waiting to get into the right mood or for the right time to strike
Being frightened of failing - or of being successful
Having a perfectionist streak and having to get it absolutely right, so much so that we never start at all
Poor organisational/time management skills.

Recognise Your Symptoms.
First we have to be honest with ourselves and recognise when we are doing it. Then we need to know what our priorities are. Make a list of all the tasks and then rate them in importance and do this every day. If the same task keeps cropping up day after day you are probably procrastinating or, it’s not actually important. Sometimes we don’t actually recognise what the most important task is, or understand the difference between urgent and important. We may happily jump to the urgent tasks without assessing if they actually need to be done at all, or by us, or if they are important. We are busy but not necessarily productive.

Or maybe we are steered in our actions by the person whose demands are the loudest. Perhaps we feel by responding quickly we are keeping the peace, even if we are left with an unpleasant result, (like a cold congealed tomato on our plate), because we missed the importance of something else.

Do you sit down full of good intentions to complete your number one priority task and then feel an urgent need for a coffee or glass of water? Or do you say yes to other less important tasks so your time is filled and you can convince yourself you are really busy but the important task stays put on the to do list? Or maybe you start with your lowest priority task and work upwards but never actually get to the top?

Techniques for Overcoming It
Usually we put off doing things for two main reasons - we don’t like it and/or we find the thought of doing it overwhelming. There are various techniques you can try, such as giving yourself a reward like ten minutes surfing the net or chatting with a colleague; asking someone to check up on you; or working in a group with others. Maybe break the task into smaller manageable chunks and resolve to do 45 minutes on it every day. You could work out how much it’s costing you to prevaricate so much. Whether you are employed or run your own business, you should be mindful of the value of your time in all respects.

In Your Mind’s Eye
Whatever you choose it has to work for you. Here is one technique I encourage you to try because it works. Take a few moments to think ahead to the consequences of not doing the task. Will you no longer have an income or bonus in two months time if you don’t chase that lead? Are you likely to get overlooked for promotion, or berated, because you didn’t deliver? Will it cause arguments and recriminations? Or will you be working at a mad pace as the deadline looms, and to a poorer standard, staying late at work? Or maybe you will still be in an unhappy relationship because you couldn’t bring yourself to end it, or take steps to change it? Whatever it is, see yourself at that stage with the task undone. I imagine it won’t be a great feeling.

Now, leave that image behind and take yourself to place in your mind’s eye where you have successfully completed the task. Really conjure up the images in your head. The first visualisation is probably associated with painful or uncomfortable feelings, the second, pleasure and satisfaction. You need to make that link between completing your important tasks and pleasure or satisfaction. See yourself making that phone call to a prospective new client (or a difficult one, or whatever it is for you) and see yourself handling it well. See yourself celebrating a successful outcome. Imagine how you feel knowing that the task is done and that you can now enjoy some of the other things on your list in a more relaxed frame of mind, basking in the glow of a job well done.

Clear Your Plate
Eventually, the truth dawned on me that it didn’t matter what I did with the wretched tomatoes! I would have to eat them in the end, so finally, I learned to eat them first, before they tainted my meal and spoilt my pleasure in the food I really did enjoy! Identify your tinned tomatoes and eat them first. And do you know what - now I quite like tinned tomatoes!

Author's Bio: 

Jane C Woods of changingpeople is a personal development specialist renowned for delivering energising and unstuffy programmes and coaching.She delivers personal development programmes in the UK to high acclaim, focusing on change, both personal and professional.
Her experience is extensive, covering both the private and public sector, ranging from small business owners to large organisations, professors at Cambridge University to those who may have no formal qualifications who know they want to change their lives but aren’t yet sure how to go about it.
You can find more information about Jane on her web site www.changingpeople.co.uk