Don’t Wait Until Tomorrow to Stop Procrastinating
Procrastination. You’ve done it. You’ve seen it. You’ve been frustrated by it. You’ve felt guilty about it.
We’ve all been there at one point or another.
But, is procrastination getting you where you want to go?
Think about how much you could accomplish in any given day if you didn’t waste time avoiding the very things you need to complete to be and feel accomplished today.
Straightening that desk drawer, jump online (just for a minute, of course) to find that gift you’ve been thinking about.
While procrastination relieves that in-the-moment discomfort, it brings more pain later as it ramps up your stress and decreases your chances for success in the end.
Like most things in life, procrastination falls along a continuum and has multiple sources.
Maybe you only procrastinate on occasion, when faced with a particularly unpleasant or difficult task. Or perhaps you’ve chosen procrastination as a lifestyle.
Regardless of where you are on the continuum, today is a great day to dig into the why of your procrastination to help you tackle the how not to.
It’s likely you’ll find your reason(s) for procrastination in the following list from Psychology Today.
5 reasons for procrastination and strategies to kick the habit
1. Lack of urgency and impulsivity.
It’s not just you. It’s human nature.
If the need to act isn’t immediate, you’re not forced into action.
Without a boss breathing down your neck, maybe writing that proposal can wait a little longer.
You can lose sight of your short- and long-term goals.
One study shows a correlation between procrastination and impulsivity. While these seem opposite at first glance, the underlying connection is about goal management.
Study authors Gustavson and team contend, that those who don’t have, “the ability to actively maintain and, if necessary, retrieve (or reactivate) one’s short-term and long-term goals to effectively guide behaviors,” are more likely to procrastinate.
Strategy: Step back and assess the task with a broader lens—look for the benefit of the NOW.
What can be gained by starting on that proposal now?
More time to re-write, edit, and get feedback from colleagues, and a higher likelihood of presenting the most robust proposal.
That strong proposal could let the boss see you in a new light and give you more responsibility or future promotion.
2. How do I move forward?
Maybe you are just overwhelmed by the indecision of how to actually get started.
You know the feeling. Sitting down to write a paper, without a clue how to jump in. Standing in the middle of a cluttered basement, wondering what pile to tackle first.
There is discomfort in not feeling in control of your own next steps.
Avoiding this discomfort often leads to substituting unrelated or more pleasant tasks for those that could actually move you towards task completion.
You still feel productive, by cleaning out your inbox, so you fool yourself into ignoring the actual procrastination.
Researchers have found that, rather than goal management, emotion might be at the root of procrastination—whether avoiding the negative feeling (discomfort of not knowing next steps, fear of failure) or choosing the positive emotion (joy in the diversionary task).
Strategy: Embrace the discomfort.
The figure-it-out steps of any project are a normal part of the process. Instead of chaffing against them, acknowledge them as an essential and legitimate first step in working on your task.
If you get stuck in this stage, phone a friend to brainstorm next steps.
3. Fear of failure.
If you hold very high standards for yourself (or feel pressure to meet high standards of others) you are more likely to procrastinate out of a fear of failure.
If you don’t think you can possibly measure up, you’ll be stuck in your tracks.
Chronic procrastinators choose procrastination as a lifestyle. They would instead look like they lack effort than risk looking like they lack ability.
Clearly, this self-defeating behavior isn’t going to produce great results.
Those who assume that failure reflects on their self-worth can find themselves paralyzed.
Strategy: De-couple your sense of self-worth from what you achieve.
Whatever you achieve does not define your worth as a person.
The sum total of your worth can’t possibly be quantified by the outcome of a single task. Plus, failure isn’t an altogether bad thing anyway.
If you are open to learning from it, failure brings about growth and future opportunity.
4. I work best under pressure.
It’s true that some people enjoy and feel they work better under tight deadlines, with the adrenaline induced, hyper-focus.
If you fall into this category, you are still a procrastinator but are actively choosing to be one.
Strategy: Be honest with yourself.
If you genuinely do ENJOY working under tight deadlines and perform well CONSISTENTLY, then procrastination might not be a huge issue for you.
Keywords here are “enjoy” and “consistently.” Research suggests you are in the minority.
A study of college students found that for most procrastinators who believe they work best under pressure, the short-term benefits are out-weighted by long-term, negative outcomes.
Student procrastinators in this study initially seemed to have a lower stress level. However, long-term, their grades were lower, their overall stress level was higher, and their overall health was poorer when compared to non-procrastinators.
So...even if you enjoy the buzz, you still might not get optimal results, and your health/well-being can suffer.
5. My work is boring.
Let’s face it. Work tasks are not always exciting.
That fact alone is enough to tempt many of us to look for the escape hatch of a diversion.
Proofreading that spreadsheet. Reading that manual. Ugh!
Strategy: Factor in Some Procrastination.
If you know you won’t be able to muscle through a tedious task without a release valve of procrastination time factored in, do it.
If you know this about yourself going in, you can plan for it and still get your task done in a more timely way by scheduling in this time.
Procrastination is considered a consistent, lifelong trait.
As such, it can have a substantial, negative impact on your work and personal life if not mitigated.
Keeping your eye on the big picture, rather than the minutia of the moment can help.
In addition to the self-reflection and strategies above, why not leverage technology to keep you on track?
Let the multi-faceted power of the iStratus DayPlanner app move your daily tasks from a list to a plan of action to keep you accountable.
Visit iStratus.com to learn more.