“Procrastination is the foundation of all disasters.” (Pandora Poikilos)
Why do you put things off? Do you ever find yourself saying any of the following when you know you should be working on an A or B task?
Let’s face it: most of us procrastinate sometimes. When it becomes a frequent habit, however, it starts to get in the way of productivity, goal fulfilment, and the maintenance and enhancement of your reputation, to say nothing of your relationships! Thus it makes sense to develop the skill of standing back from yourself and honestly acknowledging when you are procrastinating – and then figuring out why. It is helpful to identify the activities that you prefer to do to the tasks that you should do and are avoiding. What are they? Are there certain “favourites” that repeatedly see you put off your important tasks?
For example, some people say that they will just check their emails before they start on their A task. But there are several notifications from the social media sites on which they are active, and by the time they read and respond to all the new posts, the leftover bits of time (that started as a decent chunk) for the project are seriously compromised. Perhaps you are just going to “tidy up the office” before beginning – and you get caught up in complicated re-arranging. Or maybe you think you will think better if you have already gone for your daily run? Of course, going for a daily run is a good thing to do in terms of keeping you fit, and it is likely to be important, but couldn’t you do the run when you are taking a break from your project?
Possibly you are motivated by urgency. Some people feel like they do their best work under pressure, so they wait until the last possible moment – when the task is at emergency level – and then put in a heroic effort. There is bad news and good news about procrastination.
Putting things off: the bad news
People are not often recognised or promoted for putting out fires; they stay at their current level because there will always be fires. The ones who can solve the problems that caused the fires are more likely to be promoted, so that they can solve more hot problems. The other bad news is that habitual procrastination has been linked to heart disease, headaches, digestive issues, colds and flus, and insomnia (Crew, 2015). This is a double whammy, because when a person isn’t feeling well, it is doubly difficult to change an entrenched habit. There is good news, though.
Procrastination’s good news
If you are guilty here, don’t despair. The good news is that taking control back from procrastination is not a complicated process.
1. The Number One rule to heal procrastination pain is to work on avoided tasks in the morning, or whenever your “power hour” (the time of the day you are most productive) tends to occur. Most people have more energy then and can focus better earlier in the day. We repeat: DON’T put out the “urgent but not important” fires first! Do your A’s first (Zeigler, 2005)!
2. Break up major projects into smaller tasks, which can be individually scheduled. Once you get going on some, momentum will tend to build to carry you through to completion (Tracy, 2010).
3. Program your subconscious mind to help. Repeat with energy and enthusiasm – as often as necessary – “Do it now, do it now, do it now!” Remind yourself of the importance of the project, the need to stay on your schedule, and the appeal of the rewards you have planned to give yourself for doing this. Eventually your subconscious mind will get the message and gather up the energy for you to complete the project: on time.
4. Stop being an adrenalin junkie. The point is not to discourage you from hard work. Rather, it is to urge you to plan and schedule in the needed tasks in a timely fashion rather than intentionally working under pressure. Even if you feel you are brilliant in adversity, the fact that you created the adversity through procrastinating may not go down well with those around you (or worse, above you!) (Zeigler, 2005).
Crew, B. (2015). Procrastination can lead to heart problems, study suggests. Science Alert. Retrieved on 18 January, 2016, from: hyperlink.
Tracy, B. (2010). No excuses! The power of self-discipline. New York: MJF Books.
Zeigler, K. (2005). Getting organized at work: 24 lessons to set goals, establish priorities, and manage your time. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-145779-8.
Life Coaching Institute Newsletter - Coaching Inspirations - Edition 313, 9 May 2019