If you’re reading this then I hope it’s because you enjoy the articles on our site. However, you might well be guilty of it…. procrastination. I’ve been known to do it at times – checking emails more frequently, reading every tweet from my Twitter contacts, surfing the web for ‘interesting’ articles, playing bubble blaster games, anything except start that task that lies there waiting. Doing that task might even result in being paid, yet there are times that anything can seem to be more interesting than just getting on with it.
Well now you’re here, keep reading for another couple of minutes because when you’ve finished you’ll have some strategies for getting that task started.
Why do we do it? Why would we sabotage our own performance? Apparently, some people do it because if they wait until the last minute to do a task then they get a thrill from the rush at the end. You might have heard people say that they are more creative under pressure. This probably isn’t actually true, they’ve just been wasting the time they had available. Others apparently are avoiders who may be avoiding the fear of failure or even the fear of success. Some do it because they can’t make a decision and so they don’t have to take responsibility for the eventual outcome. What about you? One of the above or is it because you’re just not that in to what you have to do?
First ask yourself one or two questions. What’s in it for me if I do it? and What will happen to me if I don’t do it? Either of these may boost some internal motivation. You’re going to do it because – you’ll impress your client, because you’ll earn money, because you want to avoid disappointing a colleague. If you can’t find any motivation at all from asking yourself these things then it is possible you shouldn’t be doing it at all. Actively deciding not to do the job is better than just avoiding it. You could delegate the task to someone else, you could tell you client that you’re sorry you can’t do it/ can’t work with them anymore and accept the consequences or actually… you can just get on with it anyway.
If you decide to get on with it anyway then try and identify the main reason you’ve been putting it off until now.
Is it boring or unpleasant? In this case you could try giving yourself some reward for finishing it.
Is the job difficult or complex? In this situation a project can seem overwhelming and the trick to dealing with it is to break the task down in to small steps and tackle each step one at a time. Decide to do the first little part of it – just the first minute if necessary. Just focus on getting started. You might get an urge to go and check Facebook, or play just one more game. Sit still and let those urges pass over you then just take one small step to get started. The rest should follow from there.
Have you got too many tasks on your plate? If you’ve got too much on already, more keeps arriving and the phone keeps ringing then your ability to prioritise can be severely compromised. Make a list of all your tasks and rank them according to their importance. Then set yourself a goal to complete as much as you can in the next two or three hours. At the end of that time evaluate how far you’ve got and reassess the situation based on the tasks left on your list.
Now for some practical ongoing solutions:
Create specific deadlines for all your tasks and small steps. This way if the deadline for the final task is a long way away you don’t start to feel like you’ve got loads of time and can spend time procrastinating now and push things back until it’s too late. Tell yourself that if you don’t do X today then it’s going to jeopordise your plan for the whole project. Create a sense of urgency to act right now.
Eliminate easy access to the things making you procrastinate. Take the shortcut to Plants vs Zombies off your desktop, don’t make Facebook your home page, take all your online games off the favourites list, disable the automatic notification on your email. Sound drastic? It might be what you need to get back on track.
Changing your environment might help – but don’t use this as a means of procrastinating a little more! However, if your work desk always makes you feel tired or miserable then tidy it up or change it round. I realised that I’d spent the last few years with my desk facing the wall, and that the few feet of space in front of me had become my life. Changing my desk to look out in to the room and towards the window has made a huge difference to how I feel about sitting down to work
Tell other people about your goals. If you tell all your friends, colleagues and family about what you’re doing then when they see you next they’re likely to ask how you’re getting on with your projects. It feels bad to keep telling them you haven’t actually started yet so is a good way to keep you one step ahead.
Finally JFDI – I heard a client add in the F recently (not aimed at me I hasten to add, but as part of their rules to get work done by!) The rest is ‘Just Do It’. You can’t dream your way to success, you have to take some action. If you want to get something done, just get started.
So, what works best for you? If you have a great tip on beating procrastination, please leave us a comment below.