There are times when we all do not feel like doing something. We’re not in the mood; we find the task hard, boring or unpleasant; it’s so important that we are afraid to even tackle it; it seems insurmountable.
If that happens occasionally, there is no cause for concern.
But… if you find yourself consistently putting off tasks, time and again and missing deadlines, then procrastination is preventing you from fulfilling your potential and disrupting your career and life.
Procrastinators are made, not born and this learned behaviour can be changed. It isn’t easy but taking small bits of time to move ahead will do the trick. Specific strategies and self- discipline will help you achieve the good result.
How to Break the Procrastination Habit
Determine if you really are a procrastinator
If you just put too many things on your to-do list but are actually getting things done, then you do not qualify. However, if you constantly make excuses for not getting things done, you need pressure to perform, you avoid doing things due to fear of failure or success (if I do it well, they’ll ask me to do it again. Yikes!!) or you actively look for distractions, then you fit the bill. You are a procrastinator.
Write down all your excuses to avoid doing things.
- It has to be perfect – all the stars have to align, physically, mentally and emotionally (good luck with that)
- You actively sabotage because you have been told in the past that you don’t do things well (parents anyone?)
- You can’t make a decision (so you are absolved of all responsibility)
- You regularly say “yes” to unimportant tasks instead of actioning the important ones (it’s easier)
- You aren’t in the mood (today, tomorrow or ever)
Analyze the underlying reason for the excuses
The basic underlying cause is fear; fear of success and fear of failure. It is critical to identify what is causing those fears and dealing with them one at a time. Also ask yourself; what is the worst that can happen if I fail, succeed etc? Being honest with yourself is the first step to overcoming procrastination.
Set up a plan to deal with the issue.
Organize your environment and your information
- Disorganization is the biggest reason and excuse for procrastination. First you can’t find it so you leave it: then when push comes to shove and your deadline is here, things really are a mess from all the other projects you’ve abandoned so you can’t find what you need. It takes twice the amount of time than it originally would have if you had completed the task earlier.
- Visualize the steps you need to take to get the best result. This will reduce anxiety and motivate and inspire you.
- List all the tasks you have to do. Decide in advance what you are going to do and when and where you will do it. This replaces willpower with specific planning.
- Create an action plan by breaking down the tasks, assigning timelines and identifying the “procrastination factor” for each
- Start with one small unpleasant task and complete it; Reward yourself with a pleasant task afterwards.
Keep writing and rewriting your action plans and to-do list. Allow yourself only 3 times to move that action ahead then do something about it.
Use Productivity techniques to stay on track
- Realize that you don’t have to feel like it…just get started
- Set your expectations to complete each task easily.
- Overestimate the amount of time it will take you to complete the task by at least 50%
- Send an email stating when people can expect the information. This forces you to comply.
- Break everything up into small steps. The more extreme the procrastination, the smaller the steps.
- Think about the consequences on your mental and physical health of not completing your work. Think about the loss of time, energy and self-esteem.
- Consider the end result of completion; how good you will feel, how others will perceive you; what rewards are in store.
- Use a timer and time yourself for small 5-10 minute intervals to get started.
- Block distractions by turning off your technology, closing the door and working in a neat and tidy area. Have open or on your desk only the information you need to complete the project.
- Leave space in your calendar and to-do list for emergencies
- Let others know what you are doing so they can support and guide you.
- Reward yourself each step of the way; don’t wait until you reach the goal.
If you use the techniques suggested, you will be well on your way to reducing your procrastination tendencies. And stop being so hard on yourself for procrastinating. Unless you are getting absolutely nothing done, you need to give yourself a break and be mindful of all the good things you do every day.