Should I be completely honest and admit to you that I have been thinking about writing this article since January 2 and yet I haven’t sat down to begin until today, January 21? I have thought about it a lot, probably thought about it for longer than it will take me to write it, but that is another story.
Honesty is what I am all about so yes, I will tell you I have procrastinated this article for nearly three weeks! Why you ask? Well, that is the first question we have to ask ourselves if we are going to get to the bottom of the behaviour! We do it because it works, but why? We get something out of it, but what? These are sit down and dig deep questions only you dear reader can answer.
Let’s talk about myself and this article: why did I procrastinate? Probably a couple of reasons. First: I had other more pressing priorities, things that I deemed to require my attention ahead of this article. Second: there was no clear deadline to get this done by, which made it much too easy to keep pushing it back and back. Not that I didn’t want to do it, rather paying work came first and without a deadline, well, I could slack a bit, and do it at my leisure. So that is my truth, what’s yours?
Think about something you are procrastinating on RIGHT now. Honestly answer why are you doing this? What are you getting out of it? It must be working for you or you would not keep repeating the behaviour. So think on it.
Let’s list the reasons why we typically procrastinate:
- Don’t want to do it
- Hope someone else will do it
- It’s an unimportant, boring or unpleasant task
- Not my job – someone else should do it
- There is something more interesting to do
- Don’t know where to start
- This job is huge! I can’t possible do it! [You think of the task as one big, monumental task, instead of a group of smaller tasks added together]
- Don’t have the skills to do the job
- You don’t have the time to do the job
- Lack motivation
- Worried about failing/succeeding
- You are a perfectionist, nothing but perfect is allowed
The list is longer and the reason for your procrastination changes with different tasks. And I’ll let you in on a secret: anyone who says they are not a procrastinator is a liar. Everyone does it, for different tasks and for different reasons and maybe not all the time, but we all do it. So stop knocking yourself for this behaviour, instead recognize it, think on it and change it in the future!
Let’s look at different ways to combat procrastination. I have a couple of favourites so I will start there. I love Brian Tracey’s idea from his book “Eat That Frog” to take the worst item on your to do list and start the day by getting it done. There is a psychological ‘high’ by being able to wipe that job off your list. It makes you ready and willing to start knocking other items off too. It begins your day by being successful.
My other go to strategy is to place an artificial deadline on something that in reality has no deadline. So this article for example had no “due date” so I made one up and I will stick with it. In my line of work, I often have to use this strategy because if I wait until I get real deadlines, there won’t be enough time to actually get the task accomplished.
Here is a list of other “Get It Done” strategies:
- Break large jobs into doable blocks – celebrate the success of completing each mini-task!
- You can do anything for 15 minutes – set an alarm and start working, often 15 minutes will fly by you might even be willing to do 30 or 45!
- Delegate it – get someone else to do it.
- Remove all the distractions that are taking you away from the task, even if it means leaving the house. [I would have been wise to write this at the local coffee shop – no distractions there!]
- If you truly don’t want to do and it won’t matter, take it off your list – why bother guilting yourself over something you just don’t want to do.
- If it is someone else’s job, why is it on your to do list? Let it go.
- If you don’t know where to start, ask for direction – no harm in that.
- Don’t have the skills for the job – let that be known, watch someone who does and learn from them; or take a course, watch a video so that next time, you will have the skills.
- Sometimes the perfectionists in the crowd have to say, “It is good enough,” and let it go at that.
- And lastly, take care of yourself – you’ll be amazed at how much more you can accomplish when you are well rested, well hydrated and had a bit of time outside, preferably in nature!
One thing that I always think about regarding procrastination is this: you will often spend more time thinking about doing or not doing the task than it will actually take to complete. Not to mention when you are doing other things, that niggly thought comes into your head that you should be doing the procrastinated task. So you really aren’t focused on the task at hand either.
Just sit down [or stand up, if need be] and eat your frog! It really does help.