As I sit and write this I’m feeling slightly bemused (and maybe a tad hypocritical). I had intended to start writing this yesterday but other things got in the way. There are normally many things (excuses?) that prevent us from starting or continuing with tasks – a classic example of procrastination.
So, what are other signs of procrastination? What’s the problem with procrastinating? How do we overcome procrastination?
Signs of procrastination
Some are quite obvious but others can be more subtle. Do you recognise any of these in yourself?
- Putting things off. ‘It would make more sense to start tomorrow’
- Finding other ‘more important’ tasks to do. Have you ever noticed how it suddenly seems vital that you cut the grass / shred that pile of papers / clean the oven?
- Underlying feeling of dread about tackling said task
- Constant busyness. You are always doing something but not really making much progress
- Feeling overwhelmed and not sure where to start – so you don’t!
There can be a number of reasons why we procrastinate. By identifying what is causing us to procrastinate we can address the problem and find a solution.
Causes of procrastination
- You are not clear on the task or how to do it
- You have too many things to do and are not prioritising appropriately
- Fear of failure – you are not sure that you can succeed and don’t want to be humiliated
- Fear of success – you are not sure that you could handle success or the consequences of what might happen
- Not having all the resources you need
The detriments of procrastination
The main obvious problem with procrastination is that we don’t get things done. However, there are more insipid problems too. When we are constantly busy or finding ‘more important’ tasks to do we can waste valuable time and energy focusing on the wrong things. We can lose sight of the bigger picture. The longer we put something off often one (or both) of these things happen:
- increased sense of dread doing the task as it feels bigger and bigger
- the situation or problem gets worse and therefore it really does become bigger
Regular procrastination can also negatively affect our motivation and self-confidence. If we are often not achieving things we set out to do we feel like a failure and we may start to question our ability to succeed at all.
There are numerous ways to tackle procrastination; try different methods and find one that works for you (or maybe a combination). Some of the one’s I’ve listed below may sound contradictory but different things can work at different times.
- If procrastination has become a chronic problem then its best to start by making small changes. Improve your concentration by gradually building up the time you focus on a particular task. It might be that you start with setting a timer for just 5 to 10 minutes then take a break or change focus for a few minutes.
- Identify one or two key tasks that you need to do then keep at them until they are done. Plan a reward for yourself at the end.
- If you are not clear on the task then seek clarification or research further.
- If you can feel yourself losing focus or getting side tracked then stop, get up and take a walk. This will give your brain a rest and increase blood flow. When you return to the task you will likely be able to see the situation with fresh eyes and feeling a renewed sense of energy.
- Tackle the most difficult task first as you will feel a sense of achievement and more motivated afterwards. Also, it will free up mental energy to deal with other things.
- Break down the task into small steps and just complete one at a time. This helps to create momentum and makes the task more manageable.
- Find an accountability buddy. Share your commitments and progress with someone on a regular basis. I have an accountability buddy and each Monday we email each other about our targets for the week ahead then on Friday we share our progress.
- Set yourself up for success. Put things in place that will help you. Prepare all the resources you are going to need, set aside time and space to work on the task, find someone to help.
For more ideas read ‘Eat that Frog’ by Brian Tracey. I found it very easy reading with lots of simple suggestions to try out.
Finally, don’t beat yourself up for procrastinating. Work out what the problem really is then take steps to rectify it.
If you’d like some extra help get in touch now and let’s arrange to have a conversation.