Top Tips to Beat Procrastination
Everyone has faced procrastination to some degree - whether it’s an annual report, a small yet time-consuming task like filing, or even something as simple as writing an email. Procrastination comes in many forms and often appears in waves. In today’s blog, we will unpack procrastination, why we do it and how to overcome it.
What is procrastination, and why do we do it?
Let’s start at the start – what is procrastination? Procrastination involves having trouble persuading yourself to do things you should or would like to do.
Often, people procrastinate tasks that appear either tricky, unpleasant, or simply dull. Tasks that hold a high or low urgency can be procrastinated if you don’t want to do them. Your inner voice may be the reason for this. Pushing away tasks and finding something else to do instead of simply ignoring tasks are ways you might procrastinate. However, procrastination should not always be perceived as laziness. Commonly, the reason behind procrastination has a deeper meaning.
Reasons people might procrastinate:
Not feeling capable of performing a task is a valid reason to feel like you want to push a task aside. This might occur when you start a new job or role or simply do a new task for the first time. If you feel inadequate, you may feel like you are lacking the quality required or insufficient for a purpose. These feelings may become overwhelming, resulting in delaying the task.
When approaching a task, a fear of failure is a common experience. No matter the size of the task, it can be daunting. Some things you might ask yourself when procrastinating in fear include, “I am worried I’ll mess this up” or “Someone could do a better job than me”. Both can be exacerbated by the stress of deadlines, work pressures or even self-inflicted pressures. Fear may force you to push a task away, which is very common.
Stretched too thin
Do you ever feel like you simply don’t have the time to complete a task? Or do you have other priorities taking over? This is common, especially if you have a busy work schedule. When this feeling occurs, the little tasks tend to get pushed aside - whether you have the desire to get them done or not. This type of procrastination should not make you feel guilty but rather open-minded to readjusting priorities and allocating time to the tasks that never seem to disappear. When you are faced with the feeling of being stretched too thin, it’s time to seek assistance from your team.
Perfectionism is another reason to procrastinate your workload, as more time than necessary is spent on tasks. People who are perfectionists typically believe that nothing they do is worthwhile unless it is perfect. Therefore, they often return to tasks repeatedly until they’re satisfied or the deadline is up. This can typically happen when tasks are open-ended, meaning the tasks is never ‘complete’ per se — for example, working on a proposal document. Although you can continuously work on it, it may never be ‘done’ as new ideas can always be added. However, you may end up dedicating too much unnecessary time to this task.
I don’t know where to start
Not knowing where to start can be a huge time waster. Tasks that appear large, time-consuming, or daunting can be hard to face – especially if the deadline is approaching rapidly. Breaking down your tasks and ranking their priority can allow for your list to appear more doable and achievable.
Is procrastination bad?
So, is procrastination bad? There are positives and negatives that come with procrastination that you might not realise. Procrastination can be good for you, as it allows you to evaluate what’s most important and where your priorities should lie.
Another element of procrastination that can be viewed as a positive is the motivation for small, mundane tasks that suddenly appear when you’re procrastinating. ‘Procrasti-cleaning’ is one of them. Instead of doing your work, cleaning or organising your workspace might seem a favourable option. But hey, at least your desk will be clean! However, don’t forget the important tasks you still need to get done.
Lastly, some people do their best work under pressure. Creative ideas may flow as the deadline grows closer. As the time for dwelling and mind-wandering is cut out, you may end up being more productive.
Although there are “pros” to procrastination, it’s not ideal. Procrastination can lead to poor performance, increased stress levels and even self-defeating thoughts. So, let’s look at some tips to beat procrastination.
Tips for procrastination:
1. Readjusting your mindset
Forgive yourself for procrastinating in the past and view your upcoming workload as a fresh start.
2. Make a detailed plan
If you have multiple tasks on your list, break them down and rank their priority. Using colours can help you organise your tasks and easily view their priority. For example, red tasks are a high priority, yellow tasks are a medium priority, and green tasks have a low urgency. When breaking down your tasks, adding a time frame or a predicted time length can also help, as you’ll know roughly how long it should take before starting a task. This will enable you to slot tasks into your day more accurately so you can set yourself up for success.
3. Minimise distractions
If your phone is a common distraction, put it in your bag or desk drawer so that it’s out of reach and far enough away you won’t be tempted. If you are distracted by music, background TV or radio, then it might be worth trialling a new spot in the office that is quieter. Don’t forget; it’s only for a short time.
4. Reward yourself
Setting time increments can help your workload seem more achievable. A popular method is 25 mins of work rewarded with a 5-minute break. However, for others, this may be 2 hours of work with a 30-minute break – find out what works for you and your workplace flexibility. Rewarding yourself with a break should stem beyond scrolling on your phone for a minute. Instead, opt for some fresh air, a bite to eat or a hot cup of tea.
5. Talk it out
Talking through your priorities can be very beneficial and can calm the mind - whether this is with a manager, team member or even a friend from another department. The activity of talking it through can do wonders, even if you talk to yourself!
Procrastination is normal, and everyone experiences it in some way throughout life, so don’t beat yourself up about it. If you are actively trying to beat procrastination and aren’t having any luck, seek support from someone you trust.
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