Whether it’s personal or business, many people procrastinate until the last minute.
Why do we do that …and what can we do about it?!
There are many scientifically researched and well documented reasons why we procrastinate:
- the task is not fun (regardless of the consequence of not doing it being even less fun!)
- the reason for doing the task is not clearly defined
- overwhelmed with day-to-day details of business and life
- there is anxiety over understanding or being able to accomplish the task
- we all naturally feel a disconnect with our future ‘self’ and this ties in with diminishing future consequences
- Each one of us undoubtedly have a few more!
What can we do?
Simply forcing yourself with will power is not sustainable, will drain your available energy for the other important things you need to do, and usually produces poor results. Instead, try this:
Decide what you need to accomplish and why it’s important. Without a solid why, you will lack the motivation to change your behaviour when the work gets tough. Will doing this task help you with what you want/need to accomplish a year from now? If you look back 10 years from now, will it feel like an important piece of what you wanted to accomplish. Also ask if it will always be you who must do this task. Perhaps this is a task you will be able to outsource it at some point. Having a light at the end of the tunnel can help keep things in perspective.
Evaluate the reasons you are not getting it done. Take some time over the next few weeks to look at what stops you from doing some of those things you keep putting off. You need to know what’s stopping you before you can change the behaviour. Rather than criticizing yourself, simply observe what is happening and list them out. Trying to change them immediately will likely destroy the new foundation you are trying to establish. Change will come incrementally in the next step…
Make a plan. If the task made it through step one: ‘decide what you need to accomplish and why’, then it deserves your time and attention to achieve it as effectively as possible. To create your individual plan, you need to look at your list of behaviours and create your own anti-procrastination techniques. There are loads of them out there and here are a few to consider for your arsenal.
- Break it down into manageable steps, if they’re still overwhelming, break them down further. There is no right or wrong level – it’s what works for you.
- Set mini-milestones and celebrate. This ties in directly with break it down and adds some acknowledge what you accomplish icing on top. The task may not be fun, but you can certainly celebrate the getting it done part!
- Streamline how you do the task. Pick times that work best for this task, and keep in mind that that doesn’t necessarily mean your best time, just times that work best. Streamlining might mean batching certain types of tasks, automating aspects of it, or outsourcing portions to students or trading jobs with a friend where you both do better with certain parts of a task. Accountability partners can help here too.
- Sometimes you need help. If you’re not quite ready to outsource, you might be able to learn more about the tools you use to accomplish your task or working with someone with experience to create a process that makes the work easier and faster.
- Display visual reminders of what successful outcome means – that might feel odd at first, but those reminders can make a difference when you’re slogging through the work!
- This last one has a lot of research around the development of habits and it is to create rituals around doing the work. Take at look at high level athletes and top performers, you will see (or read about) their rituals to prepare for performance. As awkward as this might feel initially, creating a routine around focus times or doing a task, will gradually move from the conscious prefrontal cortex to the automatic function section of your brain. That means it goes from thinking about doing it, to automatically getting into the flow you need to do it.
Take action. This is where you work through each procrastination behaviour and make small sustainable changes over time. Ya, I know – time. It’s a killer, but it’s also the secret to long term success! Space out the anti-procrastination techniques you decided would work for you. Make the gaps long enough become a habit. One, you will accumulate each successful habit, and two, you will be raring to try the next incremental change because of your successes.
Find ways to use these strategies for conquering procrastination to make a difference for your productivity this year!
Lynda Davidson, LD Business Focus
I’d love to hear how you conquer procrastination – comment below!