How many times have we thought about starting something and we put it off? We do everything that we don’t need to do, to avoid working on a job that requires our focus right now.
If I was a betting person, I would wager that most of us fall into this category.
As a student in my younger years, I was definitely one of those people who left assignments to the last minute and studying for exams until the week or night before. Needless to say, it worked out most of the time.Yet, as my career progressed, I began to realise procrastination was ruling the day.
I was working full-time and when I decided to go back to college on a part-time basis, I knew I needed to make serious changes. Putting things off and leaving them to the last minute was causing a lot of unnecessary pressure and stress.
I wanted to understand more about why I was procrastinating and what I could do to avoid it, so I did some research. In essence I learnt there are three steps to consider.
- Recognise when you procrastinate
- Understand why you are doing it
- Work out how you can overcome it
When people procrastinate
There are many reasons why people procrastinate and it’s essential to understand when we do it. Sometimes we find a task daunting especially if its new and unfamiliar. It can cause anxiety and a fear of failure as we begin to doubt ourselves.There may be a lack of information, clear guidelines or resources, so we don’t know where to start and believe we can’t do it.
Other examples include jobs or appointments we don’t want to face up to. We avoid them completely or put them off for fear of negative outcomes. And if it’s a large project, we might feel overwhelmed by the workload.We might also underestimate how long something will take. We lose track of the days, thinking we have plenty of time, until suddenly the deadline creeps up on us.
Understand why you do it
We are creatures of habits.To make any possible change, we must begin by asking ourselves a few hard questions and answer truthfully.
- Why do you procrastinate? Is it self-doubt? Are you overwhelmed? Or is there some other reason?
- What do you avoid? What distracts you? Do you own up to it?
- What will happen if you put something off? Will you miss a deadline or an opportunity?
- How will you feel if you delay the activity? Are you purposely avoiding something? Will you regret it?
- What happens if there are delays? Are you adding more unnecessary pressure to yourself? Will problems arise? Are you making it worse?
- Do you take responsibility for it? Or blame others?
- Do you work under pressure? Do you secretly like the thrill of it? Do you get stressed?
- How do you work with others when under pressure? Do you cope okay? Do you take it out on others?
How you can overcome it
If we are honest, we will find many of us can relate to the above situations. To overcome procrastination, pay attention to the tips below and it will help your working day.
- Be honest about what you are avoiding and what distracts you
- Put yourself in the right environment where you can concentrate with no distractions
- Be positive and visualise yourself doing what you need to get done
- A crucial point is to break the job into smaller manageable parts - schedule them with your goals
- Write up a to-do list. Keep it short & simple with no more than 10 items
- Tell people you are taking on the task – set deadlines for your goals and commit to them
- Do your important jobs early in the morning and also in the week – stop putting it off
- Delegate or involve others where you can
- Review your plan as you go – remember to track your progress
- Finally, reward yourself when you complete the task – it’s great for self esteem