I was going to procrastinate, but decided to do it later…
This means that I’m not procrastinating right now, but being productive instead. Yay me!
Unfortunately, like many others, I can be a little bit prone to procrastination. But why do we procrastinate? It serves absolutely no purpose. I feel guilty for procrastinating, especially as a mum, wife and business owner who actually has quite a lot to do. I spend a lot of time thinking about how I really should be doing more productive things, and attacking my to-do list (which I do write sometimes).
So I’m writing this to help both my fellow procrastinators and myself. After all, they say that you teach what you need to learn. Ideas also make the most sense when we know the reasons why. So here are the reasons why we procrastinate, and how we are going to overcome them. Please add your suggestions too!
Some tasks are inherently boring. Data entry, filing, tidying my desk – all these put me to sleep just by thinking about them. (Unless I’m procrastinating against a difficult task – then I’ll take on these easy tasks to avoid others!)
Think about tasks that you like better. What do you like about them? Is there a way of incorporating what you find fun into what you find boring? Make it a challenge, listen to music at the same time or just get through it as fast as you can.
Some tasks lend themselves perfectly to the ‘what if’ game. What if I try and I can’t do it? What if I have to do it again? What if I face rejection? What if I fail? What if I make the wrong decision? Hmm, seems best to wait until later.
As Winston Churchill said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. If you’re facing a deadline and find yourself playing Solitaire, could fear be the cause of your procrastination? If so, then face it. What are you scared of? Why? What’s the worst that could happen? How likely is it? What’s the best that could happen? How likely is that?
I just don’t feel like it right now…
I actually think it’s highly valuable to tune in to your emotional state. If you’re feeling creative, do something creative. If not, wait until you are. When you’re energy levels are right, and you work with your body clock instead of against it, you’ll get a lot more done. If you’re a morning person, this means not wasting your highest energy levels on checking email, but doing something else that makes use of that energy. Leaving emails until later might be a good idea.
Unfortunately, there are some things that I pretty much never feel like doing. Such as housework. There is only one way to overcome this. Just do it. Schedule it in, tell yourself you going to do it, and keep going until it’s done.
It’s not that important
If it’s really not important, forget about it. Don’t do it. In order to procrastinate, there must be a task you believe you ‘should’ be doing. If it’s really not important, simply take it off your list. Done!
If you can’t get away with just not doing it, then it is actually important, and you know it. Maybe there’s another reason for procrastinating. Find out what it is, and work on that solution instead.
It can wait
I’ll do it later, there’s plenty of time, etc. Again, I think there can be value in waiting til later. For example, if I’m preparing training material, I might come across something really useful that I can use. Best to not have everything finished too far ahead, because then I wouldn’t be able to use it. My mum likes to have everything ready far in advance, and buys presents super early. But what if I find out later that there is something in particular the gift receiver would really like, or the item goes on sale? However, eventually, time does run out. As you know, it can also be a really good idea to finish things early, in case problems arise. My mum broke her leg last November, so it was fortunate that she had already done most of her Christmas shopping. The disadvantage of waiting until later is, of course, actually running out of time, and then either not finishing, or having to accept poor quality.
Remember times when you been frantically trying to get something ready in time? If you’re ok with that, keep doing it. Some people enjoy working under pressure, and perform well. If that isn’t you, think about the consequences of running out of time. Others might have been frustrated with you, you ran out of time to do things that you wanted to, or you did a poor job. Is it worth it? Try setting yourself ‘pretend’ deadlines. If something has to be done at 5pm, aim to have it finished by 4pm. Schedule time in your diary or calendar, and stick to it. Plan for the worst, and you won’t have to worry about it.
I get distracted
I’ve now been writing this post over the course of a couple of days. During that time, I have been distracted by email, Facebook, checking the news online, reading some articles, trying to get iTunes to work on my laptop, checking that noise outside, getting something eat, looking out the window, not to mention the endless distractions involved in working from home with small children.
Know what your distractions are, and recognise them as your procrastination tools of choice. Turn off reminders from email and social networks. If you’re working on a computer, maybe even go so far as turning off your internet connection (I’ve considered this, but not actually done it). Concentrate on what you are trying to achieve. For every action you take, ask yourself if that is helping you achieve your current goal. It turns out that multitasking is actually a myth, and far less productive than doing only one thing at a time. Work on building up your concentration levels, even try meditation. When you avoid distractions, you can actually get in a state of flow, which makes everything much easier.
Once you have finished whatever it was you were procrastinating about, reward yourself! Do something fun, that you enjoy. It was hard, but you got through it – good for you! And now that you’re not wasting time procrastinating, you actually have more time in the day. So make the most of it.