Everybody procrastinates at some point in their life, most people do it on a daily basis… some of you are doing it right now, you’re reading this post when it’s likely you’re supposed to be doing something else.
Procrastination doesn’t discriminate against race, gender or financial status, it’s a menace that affects us all. Some people have learnt to tame the dragon and keep it at bay but it is always waiting in the shadows for your moment of weakness, when one more episode of Game of Thrones is more important than doing the dishes or when making another cup of coffee overrides starting that boring report. But how is it really affecting your life or your business? If you calculated the amount of procrastinated time, you would probably choke on your third morning coffee.
Let’s get back to basics…
What is procrastination and why do we do it?
Procrastination is fundamentally doing something other than what you should be doing. It is filling your time with things to avoid doing something else. Ultimately procrastination is just avoidance.
Why we procrastinate will vary a little, but understanding
the why will help you out-smart the procrastination monster.
Are you scared?
Perhaps you’re avoiding doing something out of fear – It could be fear of failure, fear of not understanding something or fear of not being good enough. Fear is another predator in itself but in a jungle of roadblocks, you can find a path to efficiency by removing the cause, in this case fear.
- Why are you scared?
- What is the worst that can really happen?
- Is there something you can do to avoid the failed result?
Often fears and anxieties play on things that aren’t even likely to happen but the scenarios are big enough in our minds to stop us from being productive/moving forward. By talking about them, writing them down and really looking into why they exist you can begin to find solutions and hopefully the ‘fear’ will retreat back into the darkness.
Are you bored?
Another reason, that is probably the most common, is boredom or dislike for the task. If you are bored by something or find it unpleasant then you are less likely to do it immediately (or at all). Things that you find tiresome, tedious or shatteringly boring will always fall into the ‘tomorrow’ pile.
How can you fix it?
- Can you find ways to make it more interesting? E.g. Listening to music can help monotonous tasks.
- Can you delegate the task so someone who may not find it as tedious or boring?
- Can you hire someone to do it?
- Or, a method that I find works well for me is the ‘Complete and Reward’ system. It’s exactly what you think it is, – I tell myself that if I complete this task I’ll be able to buy those shoes I’ve been pining over or indulge in a Sex and the City marathon. And in a strange way I don’t ever feel guilty about the reward because I’ve earned it, so in my mind I deserve it.
Are you overwhelmed?
Feeling overwhelmed by a task at hand and then avoiding it completely will only make the anxiety about the situation grow. Quite often feeling overwhelmed is due to being disorganised. Of course, sometimes there is just too much on your plate and looking at the mountain of ‘to-dos’ can make you want to turn around and go back to bed, but that is when you need to ask for help. It’s important to put your pride aside and ask for help, even it’s just with the small things so you can focus on the big ones. But if you’re feeling snowed under because you’re not organised then that is something you can fix!
Ways to get organised fast:
- Write a list: Lists are fantastic. Write down every little thing that you need to do. If your list is big then don’t expect to do it all in one day but you can write sub-lists where you allocate tasks for each day, that way making the day easier to tackle. Once you’ve completed all the items on your list (looking at a completely crossed off list feels great.) then you can do whatever you want to do for the rest of the day/night and start again with a new list the next day.
- Clear the clutter: Untidy room, untidy mind. If you have a lot of physical clutter around you whether it’s a messy room or a messy desk it is difficult to have a clear and focused mind.
- Prioritise: Not everything needs to be done immediately. If there is big project that you can put on hold while you get to the more pressing issues then do that and don’t stress out about it while you’re not working on it. Compartmentalising your tasks is a good way to cope when you have a lot to do.
Figuring out why you procrastinate can sometimes rectify the problem but often it can be a bandaid until a new reason pops up so is there a way to coexist with procrastination?
Yes there is.
There is such thing as productive procrastination. It’s when you are avoiding doing something but are focusing on something else that also needs to be done (like something off your to-do list).
This method works really well if you’re procrastinating out of laziness. For example, today I was procrastinating writing this article so instead I cleaned the house. The cleaning was on my to-do list and I didn’t particularly want to do it but it seemed like a better option at the time.
After I finished cleaning I was so impressed with myself and still had a kick of adrenaline so I powered on to do this blog post. I find that doing another productive task can get the cogs working to complete the task you’re avoiding. Sitting stagnant or doing something unproductive doesn’t help anyone.