Procrastination isn't always bad--time it right and the added touch of stress can motivate you to amazing focus and results once you start. But take it too far and critical jobs that could propel your career and business grind to a standstill. Anxiety can skyrocket. So while it's a relatively normal behavior, you should understand why it happens so you can get it under control.
Four reasons you might put tasks off
In a recent article for Time, procrastination researcher Alexander Rozental asserted that you might put tasks off because of
- Expectancy--you expect that you're not going to achieve the value you're trying to get
- Value--the job just doesn't seem worth it based on your ideals or situation
- Time--you don't feel like you can achieve the full value within the job at the specified time
- Impulsivity--you naturally act on whims more often than not, so some jobs fall to the wayside as you pursue what's more immediately interesting
How to fix procrastination for good
Rozental and David Ballard, head of the American Psychological Association for Organizational Excellence, recommend tips for tackling these procrastination roots. You can try scheduling around your natural productivity rhythm, for instance, break jobs down into smaller tasks, give yourself small rewards along the way and minimize both distractions and the chance to multitask. It's also sometimes necessary to dive into deeper issues (e.g, depression) or just take a break. These are all excellent, proactive strategies you can carry out independently.
But like most problems, procrastination is easier to get rid of when you've got some help from other people. Here's how you can communicate your procrastination troubles to those around you in positive ways.
Ask others to provide you with as much data as possible so you can make a case to yourself that you'll reach whatever goal you have. Work with them to formulate specific strategies for overcoming each hurdle you foresee. Request feedback along the way so you have real evidence that progress is happening. Find a mentor or someone else you can talk to when self-doubt creeps in.
Talk to people about what they see as benefits to the job you have to do. Based on their unique experience and perspectives, they might show you rationales for why the value is higher than you thought. Quantify where you can and get out to interact with the people influenced by your end result. Create a holistic vision based on these techniques and use it to motivate you.
Work for flexibility in your scheduling as much as possible. Ask others to give you choices about when to do the work, and be upfront about why other times might give a better end result. Speak up about unrealistic agendas and be specific about what you need from others to meet deadlines. Identify people you can trust to delegate to and have them "on deck" to help you out.
Find a buddy to do similar tasks with who can keep you focused, or have someone check in on your progress more frequently. Ask others to avoid bringing distractions around you or to minimalize the workspace. Find out what tools are available to keep you on task, such as website blockers.
Ideally, you'll combine both the individual and collaborative techniques to keep procrastination at bay. But as you try to get better about it, keep in mind that others will be affected by your procrastinating behavior. If you involve them in the solution, however, they'll see you as more considerate and determined. And if there's one thing you don't want to put off, it's helping others form a fantastic opinion of you.