Breaking the procrastination habit!
As the last post on the theme of procrastination, I want to help those who identified with certain behaviours relating to common types of procrastinators (see last week’s blog) to adopt new habits. Here are some actions that can help you combat avoidance.
Commit to it
Do you seriously want to overcome the procrastination habit, or is this just another avoidance technique? Individual tasks may not be what’s daunting you if you regularly procrastinate – just getting out of the avoidance habit is a huge obstacle in itself. Determination is necessary and a willingness to claw back control. If you’re only half-hearted about becoming more organised, focused and less fearful, it’s unlikely to happen.
Resolve to think positively and firmly about the changes about to take place – visualise your goal and think about why you want to overcome your procrastination. ‘I will do this’; ‘I am going to change that’ will be far more successful than, ‘I should really do this’.
Start as you mean to go on
If you haven’t any systems in place for dealing with enquiries, mail or work in progress, you’ll waste a lot of time trying to find all you need to complete the task in hand. As I’ve mentioned previously, a cluttered desk leads to a cluttered mind, so if you’re drowning under paperwork, make a once-and-for-all effort to get organised – and when you are, strive to maintain order. Systems and processes take some time to set up, but should save you more time in the long run.
Remember the four ‘Ds’: Do it, Delegate it, Defer it, Dump it. Every time you receive some correspondence, or a task, evaluate which of the four Ds is necessary. If you choose to defer it, however, make sure you know when you’re going to complete it – don’t leave this open-ended.
Evaluate your procrastination
If you feel avoidance raising its head, consider why you’re procrastinating, rather than accepting or ignoring your behaviour completely, like an ostrich with its head in the sand. If possible, write down how you’re feeling; not only will this help you identify the root cause of your procrastination as you explore your thoughts, it will also be a point of reference or the chance to record patterns in your behaviour when procrastination occurs.
Describe your worries and date them – you can then look back and evaluate the percentage of those fears that came true. Once you have evidence that the majority of your fears are unfounded, they will reduce as you gain perspective.
Grit your teeth
It’s easy to avoid something that worries us, or something we fear being judged over. But staying within our comfort zones can lead to its own problems, not least stagnation. Choose to spend just ten minutes a day tackling the item you least want to deal with, and eventually, you will complete it. Force yourself to make it your first priority, so that you won’t feel any guilt or have the dreaded task hanging over you for the rest of the day. Treat it like a sticking plaster, grit your teeth and just do it. Knowing you can stop – if you want to – after ten minutes makes it less daunting to have a go.
Prepare, prepare, prepare
A heavy workload can be overwhelming, giving you the feeling that you don’t know where to start. Take 20 minutes before you go home to plan your workload for the next day, and prioritise individual tasks. Have you everything you need to complete each item? Break bigger tasks down in your mind so that you can arrive at your desk the following morning with a clear outline of what you’ve got to do and how you’re going to do it – it saves hours thinking of ‘what do I do first?’
Hang in there
Be prepared for the longer term changes to take some reaffirming. These actions won’t feel natural or like a new habit for a while, and you may still slip back into procrastinating if your focus drops. Try and consciously think about your procrastination habit, and how you’re overcoming it, for at least 30 days, which is how long it takes to change or create a new habit. Even after this time, if you see your old avoidance tricks re-emerge, don’t give up altogether, just go back to basics.
Overcoming old habits that don’t serve you well anymore is a huge undertaking. Integrate small rewards within those first thirty days, and at various intervals when procrastination no longer seems an issue. Reinforcing positive behaviour will help it to stay ingrained.
These are just some of the measures you can use to combat procrastination, and also, towards any old habit you want to be rid of, as these actions and process can be applied to other common obstacles, such as weight loss, stopping smoking, etc.
If you think coaching is something that will better support you as you make these changes, call me for a chat about how I can help, on 01302 220021, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.