please hold while i procrastinate
By tim brown in Culture and Great Work
“Professional Procrastinator” does not look good on anyone’s resume, so why are we all trying to perfect the art of it? The dictionary defines pro·cras·ti·na·tion as the action of delaying or postponing something. On the surface, procrastination doesn’t seem too destructive. But how many times have you procrastinated something important and seen the results fall flat? Or how many times have we said, “Oh, I’ll get around to it later,” and then got distracted? We can all relate to that feeling of angst when we realize we have just procrastinated past the point of return. Here are a few tips on how to not let procrastination run your life.
Remove the hidden blockage
I was trying to identify the reason for most of my procrastination. I think the answer revolves around lack of motivation. Have you ever found yourself returning to a task repeatedly but still unwilling to take the first step? It’s that little voice in your head saying, “Yeah…you should do this. But no.” For whatever reason, this is lack of motivation. Find the reason, and once you do, tackle it. Be nice to yourself but remove the blockage that is prohibiting you from taking the first step. A lot of times a competing commitment is discouraging your motivation. My advice? Set daily goals the night before, or even on your way into work. Then hit the ground running.
When we are confronted with a task, it seems many either find endless reasons to defer it, or they buckle down, prioritize and start ticking off the to-do list. That’s impressive because some might say our brains are programmed to procrastinate; this is probably because it’s easier for our brains to process the easy rather than the challenging. The short-term effort dominates the long-term upside. So, in order to prioritize and stop the cycle of procrastination, start with finding your rhythm.
Finding the rhythm. Is it easier for you to work early in the morning before the rush of the office? Or is it better for you to work late in the evening? Some may find that they have zero productivity in the morning, so they change their working rhythms. Find what works best for you and work from there.
Follow the schedule. This one is a challenge for me. Because I am constantly multi-tasking, it is hard to stick to a schedule when things are unexpectedly, yet constantly coming up. However, your schedule should include not only your working life but also your free time. Nightly and morning routines can help you prepare for the day ahead and make those difficult tasks seem less daunting.
Procrastination will ruin productivity
This is self-explanatory. When we are procrastinating, there is no way we are being productive. The two just don’t go hand-in-hand.
Disconnect yourself. As anyone with a deadline knows, a phone or really anything with an internet connection can be the enemy of getting work done. Set the phone aside and focus on the task at hand. Going offline at work with no distraction may sound impossible (and depending on your job title, it might be) but when there is a looming project, give it a try and see how much you can get done.
Share the load. Delegation can be difficult, I know. But it is vital. Put faith in your co-worker’s ability. When your load seems a little lighter, the big items we tend to procrastinate will seem a little more doable.
Don’t wait for the perfect moment. It will never come. The perfect moment doesn’t exist, so do something now. An old aphorism says something like, “No time like the present…” Because a million things can pop up to distract you at a later time, just start now. Put one foot in front of the other. And then another and voila.
I am all about the little victories. So, when you complete a tedious task, reward yourself. A mental pat on the back, a physical reward, a chocolate Frosty or even just the weight lifted from checking off that to-do list. Rewarding yourself will help you feel good about beating that nasty procrastination.
Visualize how great it will be to get it done. You are more likely to do something when you can visually see the end goal or the benefits that will come. It makes it seem more real. When there is no physical visual, paint a vivid mental picture of the benefits of completing a task you have been avoiding. Give your brain a helping hand by imagining the satisfaction of getting unstuck.
Tie the first step to a treat. You can make the cost of the effort seem smaller when you link it to something you are actually looking forward to. So, in other words, tie the task you are avoiding to something you are not avoiding—something you crave!
The final tip: Just do it now. That may be the best remedy to kill the Procrastination Beast and vault you higher.