“Never put off for tomorrow, what you can do today.”
Easier said than done, isn’t it?
It is likely that you are on this page because you are a ‘Procrastinator’ and you would like to know how to stop with the procrastination.
The truth is, procrastination is all about discipline, environment, and planning.
Before we go any further, it is important to recognize that there are two forms of procrastination, both of which act in a similar way to each other.
The first is short-term procrastination. We define that here as procrastination which lasts anything from 10 minutes to 12 hours. This could be scrolling through Instagram for half an hour before work.
The second is long term procrastination, which could last anything from one day to a lifetime. This could be putting off starting an investment portfolio.
Regardless of which category(s) you fall into, it is likely that your standard form of procrastination will look a little something like this.
Not the nicest feeling, is it? But you’re not alone.
Take a look at some of the quick stats on Procrastination.
It seems that most of us are procrastinators. A lot more so than previous generations. It’s easy to understand how this has happened. A change of working environment, increased access to technology and an almost infinite accessibility to information at our finger tips.
So why is it we procrastinate, even if we know it will harm our overall wellbeing, or success?
Here are some reasons why.
1/ A lack of clearly defined goals.
This is a common source of procrastination, most likely because people don’t realise the power of setting clearly defined goals.
Setting clearly defined goals and continuous planning keeps our eyes on the target and helps our brain form a clear plan for the task ahead. Ambiguous goals leave an opportunity for procrastination through a lack of time applied to them.
For example, a daily goal to ‘write a productivity’ report is ambiguous. Set a time to finish this by and we decrease the attraction to procrastination before writing the report.
Action step: Set clearly defined goals, both daily and log-term. Review them continuously.
2/ Feeling overwhelmed.
This is one of the highest reported reasons for procrastination and it is very much understandable. It is often difficult to find a ‘flow’ in our work which is required for optimal productivity.
One of the most effective methods in this case, is to break down larger tasks into smaller ones. The benefit of this is twofold. Firstly, the smaller, more clearly defined tasks are now more appealing to begin on.
Secondly, there are now more opportunities for fulfilment through crossing the tasks off our to-do list. In crossing off a task physically, we help our brain recognize that a task is complete. This causes our brain to release Dopamine – the feel-good neurotransmitter.
Through this we can produce a positive cycle of productivity.
Action step: Break down any larger tasks into smaller ones. Tick the tasks off as we complete them.
3/ A lack of foresight into the future.
When procrastinating, many people fail to think of how procrastinating now will affect them in the future. This could be at the end of the day or on a long-term basis.
Procrastination has been linked to lowered levels of happiness and increased levels of anxiety/depression.
Understandably, anxiety often occurs in the guilt stage of the Procrastination Loop, as we realise we haven’t completed a task when we should have. Furthermore, being distracted throughout the day can lead us to feel unfulfilled at the end of the day, affecting our mood.
This can be applied to both short term and long-term procrastination. The feelings are the same, they just take place over different time frames.
Action step: Take time to consider the consequences before indulging in your procrastination task.
There is a reason that Students tend to procrastinate more than the rest of the adult population.
For the large part, students are required to study without the guidance of teachers or lecturers. It is no coincidence that students show the highest levels of Procrastination.
On the other hand, it is difficult to procrastinate in a highly managed environment with defined targets. We are accountable to a whole team, not just ourselves.
However, not everyone has this structure, which can lead to procrastination.
If we are procrastinating due to a lack of accountability, it is time to set up our own accountability network. This could be as big or as small as we like. And we could have different people, or groups for different situations that may be liable to procrastination.
Action step: Set up an accountability network for each area that you may be liable to procrastinating. Daily tasks? Speak to a friend or partner daily about it. Thinking of investing in the new investment fund? Tell your friend why you’re doing it, but most importantly when you are doing it.
5/ Bad habit.
It could be argued that all forms of Procrastination are the result of bad habit.
Procrastination is particularly harmful when it is a daily habit. For example, if we were to procrastinate 45 minutes each day at work, we would forego 24 days’ worth of work per year, or two days per month.
This is based on working 7.5 hour days , 5 days a week and is also accounting for 4 weeks holiday a year.
So it’s easy to see how daily procrastination can have a huge negative impact. What could you do with almost a full extra months’ worth of productivity?
Take a look at how the habit loop can be applied to Procrastination.
According to Charles Duhigg , the easiest way to break habits is to build new ones. We could do this on a micro level. For example, if we have a habit of checking social media before we begin our work day, it’s time to break that.
Our Cue is being faced with important tasks. Our Routine is to check social media and our Reward could be knowing what’s going on with our friends, or simply the convenience of not having to think much.
Armed with the Habit loop knowledge, we can build positive habits to take down the Procrastination habits. Our Cue will remain as the task in hand, our new Routine will be to favour action in completing the task. From there we should build rewards for completing this.
For example, we could reward ourselves with some food or a 5 minute break after beginning with work rather than procrastinating. If we do this for long enough (up to a month) a new habit should form.
It is not just the intentional rewards we enjoy. We will also feel the benefit of the natural rewards associated with not procrastinating. Namely, this is a feeling of fulfilment at the end of each day, or after completing a certain task.
Action step: Assess your habits and implement new ones.
Always favour action.
6/ A lack of planning.
“Either you run the day, or the day runs you”
You may have heard this before and if you’re not planning your days with a Journal or some other tool, it’s time to start doing so.
With a lack of planning there is no clear direction. With no clear direction there is indecision, and with indecision there is often procrastination.
Daily and weekly planning is a highly effective way to combat this.
Just 5 minutes daily can save us from up to an hour of procrastination each day. Planning can be used to eliminate long term procrastination by introducing time-scales or dates.
Need to fix that appliance in your house? Schedule it or do it now.
Action step: Begin daily planning and watch your productivity surge.
7/ Fear of an outcome (anxiety)
This is a big one.
It only applies in certain situations, but almost all of us will have experienced this at some point in our lives.
It is when we procrastinate due to fearing the outcome of the task in hand. It could be that we procrastinate over visiting the dentist as we are worried about needing work. Or we could procrastinate about asking our boss for time off as we worry about whether it will be allowed.
It is the most obvious form of detrimental procrastination. Carrying out the task at the earliest possible point will almost always benefit us.
If we visit the dentist now, we will be able to take action on any work that needs carrying out, before it gets worse.
If we ask the boss for time off now, the number of people with time booked off over that period will be lowest. If we wait we simply increase our chances of a negative outcome.
Out of all habits to build, building the habit of always taking action would be one of the most beneficial.
Action step: For any task that you are fearful of the outcome. Take on the task as early as possible to give you the best outcome.
8/ Discomfort intolerance.
Procrastination is often derived from times which we feel physically or psychologically uncomfortable. Thus, procrastination arises from the belief that discomfort should be avoided. This is what is stated in BEBT theory.
However, it’s important to recognise that feelings of discomfort are often when we learn most.
Action step: When faced with a task that you believe will give you discomfort, or a task that does give us discomfort, then remind yourself that discomfort is not something to be avoided. Without discomfort there is little growth. You could utilise the ‘Premack Principle’ to train ourselves to do this (rewarding ourselves for doing things that are uncomfortable).
Procrastination happens to all of us at some point, some of us more than others.
It’s important to know that it can always be managed by simple tips, habits and tricks.
While there is no one-size-fits-all method, the points noted here should help you increase productivity.
Always favour action.
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