Procrastination – recognising it and stopping it
I don’t need to spell out the disadvantages for executives regarding procrastination. But many of us may not realise we’re procrastinating, or that other things we do serve only as distractions towards getting the job done. Social media, for example, can be used for many business purposes, such as marketing and research, but the time it can sap from our continually diminishing supply would shock many of us if calculated. So, how can we recognise when we’re procrastinating, and what steps can we take to push through it?
Procrastination is the avoidance of a certain task, one that our mind has deemed stressful, difficult, or en route to a worsened situation. It can occur if we fear criticism or judgement from the completion of the task, as if a mental block actually stops us from doing anything other than the task we really should do. Suddenly, organising the stationery seems a higher priority.
Whatever the risk, we can’t avoid tasks that make us feel uncomfortable. When we procrastinate, we avoid the anxiety associated with the task; whatever we do in its place becomes infinitely more enjoyable as a result. The pressure lifts and the task is no longer glaring at us, because we’ve parked it physically and mentally elsewhere. Because this avoidance gives us an immediate rush – until the guilt sets in – we yearn for this the next time we’re in a similar position. Before we know it, a cycle forms, and some people become serial procrastinators.
Symptoms of procrastination:
- A lack of time
- Fear and overwhelming
- No vision or plan of action
- Tiredness and poor focus
Let’s address the first symptom. I sincerely doubt that people don’t have enough time to carry out what’s expected of them. It’s easy to delegate, to become more efficient with our time and to cut out actions or habits that don’t serve us well.
Look at the likes of Donald Trump and Richard Branson. They built their empires with the same seven days per week, 52 weeks per year. It can be done; they didn’t have a stash of extra hours in their safe. To combat serial procrastination, we don’t need more time, we just need to work smarter with the time we have.
Fear and feeling overwhelmed are serious issues and can paralyse the best of us. I wrote a blog recently on failure, and how you have to be prepared to fail to succeed; if you can’t envisage failure, or you don’t know how you can turn any negative into a positive, seek advice. Until you do, you’re likely to remain in stasis, too fearful of making a mistake. Though this paralysis, in the short-term, saves you from any backlash or criticism, you also shut the door on opportunities and never move forward towards greater things There’s as much chance of huge success than a failure, but if you prefer to procrastinate or shy away, you’ll never know what you could achieve.
If you’re tired you can lack concentration, which gives you poor focus and opens up the floor for distraction. Ensuring you’re healthy and rested is important if you’re to combat procrastination, apathy, poor concentration or fatigue. We often actively look for distractions that are easy to complete and bring a small level of satisfaction when they’re done, so that we feel we’ve accomplished something, in comparison to the larger, monster of a task we should have completed instead.
Having no vision or plan of action is a huge element of procrastination. Without a step-by-step plan or idea of how the task will be carried out, there’s little wonder it seems overwhelming. Breaking the whole thing down into little steps can make a mountain of a task seem straightforward and achievable. Without a vision, it’s harder to make essential decisions, which also serve to make a task seem more complex. With a plan in place and better organisations, we can feel more informed when a decision has to be made.
Considering the outcome, whether good or bad, can help you be more prepared for either, which again helps to remove any fear associated with difficult tasks. Understanding why you’re doing something, and how it will benefit you, will motivate you to start or continue; it helps you feel more invested in the project.
Recognising that we’ve put our own obstacles in the way when we’re procrastinating can help us to dissipate or overcome them. It’s also helpful to reward ourselves when the difficult task is complete, so that we can break the habit of finding relief from avoidance.
Being more structured with our time can take longer and may involve an overhaul of our whole daily routine, but it can be astonishing how much time we waste when we’re mindful of how we spend it.
Are you a serial procrastinator? Would you like my help to feel less overwhelmed at work, or to establish a more efficient routine? Call me today on 01302 220021 or email firstname.lastname@example.org