Procrastination. We've all suffered from it in one form or another. It basically happens when we put off things that we should be focusing on at the moment in favor of doing something else we're more comfortable, or would rather be, doing. Sound familiar?
You know you're in trouble especially during that time period between when you intend to do something (a task, project, homework, an important conversation, etc.) and when you actually do it. That's when it gets you.
If you want to take total control of your procrastination, here are three simple steps to get you there.
Step 1: Recognize That You're Procrastinating
Seriously, most of us should know when we're procrastinating. But just in case, here are some useful indicators that will help you know when you're doing it:
- Starting your day with low priority tasks from your to-do list. You're working the bottom of the list first. That's a no-no.
- Reading emails several times without deciding what to do with them.
- Finally deciding to begin an important task, and suddenly, like magic, off you go to make a cup of coffee!
- Leaving something on your to-do list that carries over into the next day, then the next, and the next...even though you know it's important.
- Not having the boundaries to say "No" to low-priority tasks that others ask you to do, which then fill your day, instead of following through with the important things already on your to-do list.
- You're waiting to get into the "right mood" or find the "right time" to knock off the important stuff. Really now....
Step 2: Understand Why You're Procrastinating
It's important to figure out the reasons for your procrastination. Here are five typical reasons:
1. Some people find a particular task or job unpleasant, and that becomes the source of their avoidance. Tip: Get these tasks done with quickly. Then you can focus on doing the work that you enjoy.
2. Some people are often disorganized--it may even be how they're wired. Here are three instant strategies to help you out:
- Having clearly prioritized to-do lists, schedules, time frames for completing a task, and deadlines for goals will help counter procrastination.
- Work back from your deadlines to know how long you need, and when to get started so you're not late.
- Focus on one task at a time. Contrary to popular belief, multitasking is actually counterproductive! Finally, like all well-organized people, make sure your work is broken down into manageable steps.
3. Some people are overwhelmed by a task that causes them to doubt their own abilities or resources, so they end up seeking comfort in doing the tasks that they know they're good at doing!
4. Perfectionists are often procrastinators, as they have a tendency to think "I don't have the right skills or resources to do this perfectly, so I won't bother with it."
5. Having poor decision-making skills. If you just can't decide what to do, you'll likely put off taking action in case you do the wrong thing.
Step 3: Replace Old Habits That Keep You Procrastinating
While breaking the habit of procrastination won't happen overnight, replacing the current habits that keep you there and practicing better ones often will be your best bet. Here are some tips to get you motivated:
- Reward yourself. When you're done with a task that you know you've been avoiding, believe me, you will feel the joy of finishing it if you treat yourself to something special!
- Be accountable to someone else. Have a peer, spouse, or co-worker check up on you, or keep you on track.
- Find out the negative consequences of NOT doing the task. Keep that perspective at the front of your mind. What's the cost of your procrastination?
- Figure out in dollars what you're costing your employer. This is going to require you to be very honest with yourself. Since they're paying you for your time to do important work, how much are you costing them by not delivering? This is a reality check.
- Start with small tasks to get the ball rolling and get you in the flow. This will minimize the feeling of taking on the whole mountain by concentrating on one molehill at a time.
Remember: The longer you go without procrastinating, the greater your chances of breaking the habit! I hope this helps. Good luck.