What is procrastination and why can it be bad for you?
Procrastination is when you replace any of your high-priority actions with a low priority action instead (hello Netflix!), and we all do it from time to time.
The problem with procrastination is when it becomes habitual and you constantly avoid doing certain activities and parts of your life begin to suffer. You might pay bills late and incur late fees, you go make a coffee or get something to eat in the middle of your task you're on that deadline for and end up missing the mark, or maybe you leave Birthday or Christmas shopping until the last minute and can never get that perfect gift you wanted to give your partner.
Procrastination is a way to avoid doing something that seems overwhelming, uninteresting or when you simply have too many other things to do, however it leads to added stress in your life when you continually put things off until a later time. Having a number of tasks you have started and not yet finished, or tasks that you know you need to start but haven’t yet, leads to an overwhelming feeling of stress and anxiety and actually lowers your self-esteem. When you get an overdue notice with an added $10 charge for late payment, when you’re rushing at the last minute to try and find the perfect present for someone, or when your friend calls to invite you for coffee but you know you really have to finish writing that paper that you haven't even started, all adds stress and worry to your life – which could be avoided.
By following a few simple tips, you can streamline your tasks a little better and as you work through your tasks, your sense of achievement increases too.
Decide what Needs to be Done Sometimes you don’t get started because you actually don’t know what needs to be done. You know that there’s plenty that you 'should' be doing, but you’re really not quite sure what those activities are so you don't start anything of value.
Spend a few minutes either at the beginning or the end of the day and write your To-Do List, then highlight 3 tasks that you absolutely want to get done that day. This list can be amended, added to and priorities changed as often as you like, but once you have your list in place, it gives you a concrete starting point and also an end point, so it’s easy to get started on your tasks. It also gives you the satisfaction of being able to look at your list and see what you've marked off as completed.
Visualise the End Result Before you begin to think about what needs to be done and the steps you need to take, spend a few minutes visualising the end result. See your task completed and experience the feeling of having achieved this commitment. Whether it’s a task you really just don’t want to do, or whether it’s something you’d love to achieve but feel that it’s too overwhelming for you, just picture the job done and see how good it feels. This will often give you the motivation you need to get started.
Break big tasks into smaller steps One of the reasons people procrastinate is because they feel overwhelmed by the task and don't know where to start. A large goal can seem overpowering when you only look at the big picture, so spend a few minutes breaking the task into smaller goals and the task will soon seem more effortless. It also gives you the added bonus of being able to cross off many items on your to-do list as you go along, and your sense of satisfaction and therefore motivation, will rapidly grow.
Do it for Just 15 Minutes Whatever the task is that you’re trying to avoid, decide that you’ll spend just 15 minutes on it. Set a timer if you want to and get to work. Make sure you’re actively working towards your goal, and once your 15 minutes is up, you can finish, or you can see if you could keep going with your project for another 15 minutes. Chances are that you’re already in the flow of your task and you’ll be able to keep going. If not, that’s okay too, but plan for when your next 15 minutes on this task will be.
Think about the space you work in
If you're working and find yourself procrastinating, create a space for yourself where you won’t be easily distracted, even if this means having to move away from your computer, a co-worker or even go to a coffee shop for a period of time. Put your phone out of reach so you can't check it every few minutes, and maybe even try using pen and paper for what you're working on instead of your laptop. It's easy to get caught in a rabbit hole when you start Googling something that needs to be added to your document, so starting with a pen and paper and highlighting in your document where you need to add some research data in later can help you avoid those distractions.
Give yourself minor Rewards When you’re working on a task that seems uninspiring or overwhelming to you, set yourself some reward points. Rewards can be simple, such as getting up to make a cup of tea or coffee, taking a walk around the block, or phoning a friend for a quick chat. When you’ve completed the task; or worked on it for a set amount of time, reward yourself with one of your chosen treats, and then tackle the job again.
Procrastination happens to most of us at some point, but how much it affects you depends on how willing you are to acknowledge it and change your actions.
Your first steps are to:
~ Decide what needs to be done
~ Prioritise your activities ~ Develop some tangible action steps
~ Create a timeframe and deadline if necessary
~ Get Started!
If you need help working through why you procrastinate and how to overcome it, reach out to me on Facebook or send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to have a chat about how we can work together.