I’ve been meaning to write about procrastination but I just didn’t get around to it.
Does this kind of excuse sound familiar?
Procrastination, it’s something we have all dealt with at some time. Whilst some people would say they never procrastinate, I think in all honesty most people would have at some time. Whether it was putting off cleaning out the garage or booking the car for a service, at times we put off things, the things that don’t really excite us, or things that perhaps intimidate us. In relationships we sometimes put off saying things we really should have earlier to avoid breakdowns and in business we see owners ignoring warning signs and trying to continue when in fact they should have taken action earlier.
Factors that make us procrastinate:
FEAR: We might fear that we are not good enough, fear that we may hurt someone or let them down, fear that we might fail, and sometimes fear that we might actually succeed.
OVERWHELM/BURNOUT: Letting things build up to a point where everything seems to much and there are so many little things demanding our attention that we can’t focus on anything, let alone the big stuff. Have you been there?
DISTRACTIONS: Allowing other things to get in the way. Finding a balance between social needs and work is important, but the important word is balance. Social Media and the internet can be a distraction, we can find ourselves not just engaging with the people we want to, but allowing ourselves to be drawn into others conversations, or just being drawn on a merry path. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if we consistently lose track of our time we can find ourselves going down a very deep rabbit burrow quite quickly. If you work from home making sure that you plan to have undisturbed time so you can focus on what needs to be done. Keep housekeeping time separate and avoid further distractions like the television.
INCOMPETENCE: Something that we don’t like to consider, but the truth is we can’t always do everything. We can try but we may not be efficient or effective. When it comes to start ups and entrepreneurs often we try to do everything we possibly can, especially when cashflow may not have started yet and capital is scarce. What can happen is that the jobs we are not good at doing start to pile up, and it becomes easier in our minds just to ignore them.
It often goes like something like this: Hmm I need to get ontop off these bills. Perhaps I need an overdraft. I will go online and see what the bank offers. Perhaps I will Google some options. Oh look at the news. Hey Jack’s on Facebook haven’t heard from him for ages I will just pop over to say hi… Oh look a cat video. You get the picture.
But wait, didn’t I say that not all procrastination is bad? That is true.
How can procrastination be a good thing?
Procrastination can give us time to formulate better responses. Provided we are not just avoiding, but actually still considering the problem and gathering more information, procrastination can lead to a better outcome.
People who procrastinate are often the big thinkers. They look at the big picture and consider the risks and benefits. I read an article a while ago that said that every great invention was discovered by someone who was meant to be doing something else! I can’t guarantee the accuracy of that statement but it does make sense.
Procrastination can allow more time for creative thinkers to gather bigger and better ideas. If being creative is a big part of your business or study then allowing yourself the time to be creative is a good thing. Where it can go wrong is if you are creating ideas which have nothing to do with the issue at hand.
So what can we do?
The key is in planning and scheduling and documenting what you need to do. Write down the things that are nagging you to complete. The overdue tax, the spare room that needs to be tidied, the bills in the drawer that are not going away. Consider the importance of each task.
Write down what is important about each task. Getting your paperwork sorted means you lodge tax on time, paying your bills on time means avoiding late fees, and keeping on top of tasks gives you more time to be working on your business rather than in it. If you are a student, balancing your time can mean less stress and potentially better marks.
- Even if its just 10 minutes a day, start scheduling tasks into your days so that you can get things done.
- Block off times in your diary.
- Having a deadline is always a great idea. Some of the best works can come under the pressure of a deadline, but make sure you are not doing it at the risk of your health.
- Don’t underestimate how long a task might take. Always allow more time than you think you will need.
- Create a task sandwich! Schedule the work you don’t like so much, between two tasks that you enjoy. Giving yourself a reward for completing a task “gamifies” the work and makes it a more enjoyable challenge.
- Be aware that although you might think you are not in the mood for a job, starting it can be just the motivation you need to see it through.
- Use blocking software to help eliminate distractions. Self Control for Mac or Freedom are just a couple. These let you turn off sites so you can’t get sidetracked when working (especially with cloud based apps that see us connected on the net all the time!)
- Break up tasks into managable chunks
- Consider who you can delegate work to. Split up chores at home or consider hiring some help. Delegating is such an important skill to earn. Consider outsourcing tasks such as bookkeeping or hiring a Virtual Assistant to help.
You can listen to my Facebook Live recording on Procrastination below.
Another interesting talk on Procrastination is by the king of Procrastion Tim Urban. Here is his Ted Talk
I hope you have enjoyed this post. Please feel free to share your thoughts, stories and tips below.