Procrastinator – Moi?
Procrastinator or simply putting off doing the inevitable? So what’s the difference? Actually, there is no difference! Do you find yourself finding every reason under the sun to put off doing important tasks? Yes? If so, you may be a procrastinator however, if it’s any consolation you are not alone. We all procrastinate to some degree however; if you procrastinate so much it may be preventing you from realising your true potential and thwarting your ambition.
The trick is to realise you do procrastinate, admit it, accept it and deal with it. To deal with it you need to identify the triggers for you, and how these triggers can impact on your behaviour. Then you can develop and implement strategies to beat it.
If you have time watch Mel Robbins talk about “How to stop screwing yourself over”
SO WHAT IS PROCRASTINATION?
Procrastination is basically when you put things off that you should really be doing to focus on something else that you either enjoy doing or would prefer to do given the choice. There is a lot of research out there on procrastination however; the best definition of procrastination I have come across is by psychologist Professor Clarry Lay who defined it as:
“a temporal gap between intended behaviour and enacted behaviour”
In other words, there is often a significant gap between when you intend to complete a task and when you actually do it!
So, how do you beat procrastination?
Step 1: Admit that you are a procrastinator
Be honest here; reflect on the last three big tasks you had to complete. How long did each one take? Did you start a task and then stop to move onto something else that you knew you would enjoy more?
Read the points below, and answer honestly, how many of these do you tick?
- Your To Do List each day is full of tasks which you either enjoy or really should take low priority;
- You read your emails, yet don’t place them in the following categories: Urgent, Important, Deal With it or Dump It;
- You sit down to start working on an important task, and then almost immediately decide to make a cup of tea – after all a cup of tea will get those creative juices flowing!
- Keep deferring the most important item on your To Do List, kidding yourself that all other tasks are far more important;
- When someone asks you to do something which is not important you grab it with both hands and start work on it right away, knowing at the back of your mind you have far more important things to deal with;
- You convince yourself that “you need to be in the right mood or right frame of mind to tackle a specific task”.
It’s important to recognise however, the difference between being a procrastinator and someone who is good at prioritisation. Deferring a task can be the latter! So, if you feel especially tired and you need to reconcile your accounts, for example, deferring the task until the next day may be for the best when you will be able to concentrate better. It is when you keep putting it off, that it tips over into procrastination. Ask yourself if you are finding excuses to not start a task!
Step 2: SO WHAT CAUSES YOU TO PROCRASTINATE?
This can be dependent on the task at hand or you as a person. You need to be able to differentiate so you can identify the most appropriate strategy to get you back on track.
One of the most common causes of procrastination is either you find the task at hand boring or you perceive a difficulty, and consequently revert to tasks you enjoy or find easy. It’s a fact of life that you will not find all jobs easy or interesting however, you still need to do them! After all nobody else is going to do them for you. Brian Tracy in his book “Eat That Frog” offers a top tip: deal with those tasks you don’t like or find difficult first, which then leaves you free to focus your time on energy on the things you do enjoy.
Another very common trigger is simple disorganisation. Look at your To Do List; is it simply a list of things to be done? Or have you organised it into Urgent, Important, Deal with It and Dump It? Organised people also allocate a certain amount of time to each task with its deadline so they know exactly how long they need to spend completing the task. They then break the task down into bite size chunks and crack on with it.
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Be reassured though, that even the most organised people can feel over whelmed from time to time, or doubt that they have the skills or ability to complete a project. The difference here though is this: rather than putting that task to one side and getting on with things that they enjoy, they break the task(s) down into manageable pieces, talk to others who may be able to help them, actively problem solve and take stock of work completed to date to remain motivated. They can also accept that not everything has to be gold plated standards and sometimes “good enough is really good enough”.
It’s not surprising therefore to find that may perfectionists are also procrastinators. They engage in negative self-talk, or simply don’t start a task for fear of failure.
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Step 3: BREAKING THE HABIT
Procrastination is a habit – therefore you need to flex your “muscle” and recognise that to break a habit takes practice. Keep a reflective diary and note each time you have deferred a task. What was the trigger? How quickly did you recognise that you were slipping back into your old ways of being a procrastinator? Ask a “critical friend to tell you when they think you are procrastinating. But above all, be honest with yourself.
Some simple steps to breaking the habit may include:
- Decide on a reward for each task completed e.g. a walk at lunch time. Record how good it felt to complete the task.
- Ask a good friend or a colleague you trust to hold you to account. It’s a simple but effective trick. Having to explain why you have not done something is a great motivator.
- What are the consequences if you don’t do something? Who will you have to explain why you have not done something to? Visualise their reaction, and how you will feel.
- Calculate your hourly rate. If you are not delivering you are costing someone else money. Shame yourself into doing the jobs you have been putting off.
- Aim to “eat that frog” first thing, every day!
If you recognise that the root cause of your procrastination is simple disorganisation, get organised. Here’s how:
- Draft a Daily To-Do list: record all tasks no matter how difficult, boring etc; that way you won’t forget;
- Use Steven Covey’s Urgent/Important methodology to help organise your To-Do List so that you cannot convince yourself that it’s OK to put off doing something on the grounds that it is unimportant, or that you have many urgent things which ought to be done first when, in reality, you are nothing more than a procrastinator!;
- Learn how to schedule your time, so you know when your deadlines are and work back from the deadline to allocate time to each task;
- Set yourself time limits for each goal to be completed by; leave no room for procrastination!
- Complete one task at a time. Break the task into smaller, more manageable steps. Start with the quick, easier tasks if you can, even if this does not at first seem logical. That way you will feel you are dealing with things successfully and this will help spur you on;
- Most procrastinators have a tendency to exaggerate the difficulty of a task. By starting it, you may realise that it’s not that bad after all.
Remember: the longer you can flex that “muscle” and not procrastinate the more likely you are to succeed and break the habit for good.