If you are a procrastinator, then working from home with the ‘shelter in place’ order has not been your friend. Now, you have even more reasons to procrastinate. I’ll do it when: “I have two screens again”; “I can print it out”; “When the kids go outside to play.” There are even more reasons than before to put off that task. Some of the more traditional reasons are: “It’s not due yet”; “I work better under pressure”; “The task is boring.”
We all procrastinate from time to time, but when it affects your productivity, then that is when it is time to tackle this habit. By definition, procrastination is the intentional and habitual postponement of a task, in order to do a task of less importance. If we have a legitimate reason for postponing a task then, by this definition, it is not procrastination.
Real procrastinators have three strong characteristics: Perpetual Guilt, Crisis Orientation, and Self-Deception.
First – Perpetual Guilt: Procrastinators know they have a problem and know they need to take action. Procrastinators generally feel guilty every time they look at the task that needs to be completed. They often have a good idea of exactly what needs to be done. However, great procrastinators continually postpone the very action that will relieve their guilt.
Second – Crisis Orientation: Great procrastinators always promise to take action at some indeterminate time in the future. The hallmark of procrastinators is that they do not ever take immediate action unless there is a crisis concerning the task. The self-talk of a procrastinator generally utilizes the phase “I need to” rather than “I will.” For example, a procrastinator feels comfortable saying, “I need to clean out the garage.” A more goal directed individual would say, “I will clean out the garage by noon tomorrow.”
Third – Self-Deception: Great procrastinators like to make the performance of the procrastinated task contingent on something else. This makes the delay seem rational and justifiable. For example, a procrastinator might say, “I will take a vacation as soon as the pace slows down.” Unfortunately, for the true procrastinator, the pace never slows down. In this scenario, the delay tactic is a convenient excuse rather than a legitimate reason for the delay. Most procrastination involves self-deception. We try to rationalize why we have not yet completed the task.
When we procrastinate, we usually feel guilty or awkward because we acknowledge the fact that we are not weighing the penalties of not completing the task against the benefits of completing the task. Here are 8 steps to help you overcome your procrastination:
- Decide What is Causing the Delay
To win the battle with procrastination, it is critical that you figure out what is causing you to delay the task. Look back over the list of excuses to see which ones apply to you. Once you pinpoint the cause, it is easier to generate a solution.
- Change Your Attitude
Most people are not excited about completing a procrastinated task. It is this very lack of excitement and enthusiasm that creates a need to put off the task for one of lesser importance. In fact, you will find that with most procrastinated tasks, you use negative self-talk. If your self-talk consists of a statement like, “I don’t even know where to start,” or “This task is boring,” it will most likely have a negative impact on the outcome. You are much better off focusing on the benefits of completing the task rather than the negative aspects of getting started on the task.
- Conquer Your Fears
Sometimes we procrastinate a task because we fear the outcome. An individual puts off going back to school because he is much older than most students and is not sure how well he will do. A good way to overcome your fears and get on with life is to analyze what is the worst possible thing that could happen. After you recognize the worst possible outcome, then ask yourself, “Can I live with the worst possible scenario?” Most times, we can live with the worst possible outcome.
- Organize a Plan for Completion. Break down the procrastinated project into smaller tasks. For example, if you presently have a large pile of magazines you need to read, it may be easier to accomplish the task by taking the following steps. First, separate the different magazines you subscribe to into individual piles by type. Second, work on only one type of magazine at a time. Third, highlight the articles you want to read in each magazine. Fourth, set a goal to read or review articles for thirty minutes a day until you have completed the task.
- Set Goals
Unless you set a goal that is realistic, measurable, and within a specific time frame, you will find that you tend to put off the task. Make a commitment and get the task done.
- Act Now
There is only one real solution to winning the battle with procrastination. Like Nike says, “Just Do It!” Let’s say you have to write an article for your corporation’s newsletter. The article will take approximately one hour to write. At this moment, you only have fifteen minutes before you need to be at a meeting. You can still act now. In fifteen minutes, you could put together an outline of the article. Then, the next available fifteen minutes can be used to expand the outline and, before you know it, the article is finished.
- Do the Toughest Part First
A young boy was sitting at the dinner table staring at some green peas that he did not want to eat. The problem was that his mother said, “You cannot leave the table until you finish all your dinner, and that includes your peas.” After looking at the green peas for over an hour, the boy’s father shared with him this pearl of wisdom. “Son, if you have to swallow a frog, don’t sit there and look at it.” And so is the case with procrastinated tasks; they normally do not get better with time.
- Reward Yourself
When you accomplish a task you have been procrastinating, reward yourself in a way that is meaningful to you.
Like the saying goes, there is no time like the present. Take the next step to work on those items you have been procrastinating. You know you’ll be glad you did.