Better Time Management – Overcoming Procrastination
If you are someone who finds that they put off some tasks over and over again, you are certainly not alone. Almost all of us procrastinate to some degree, but it effects some more than others.
Procrastination is a destructive habit, that when played out to an extreme can stop you fulfilling your potential, and at worst effect your career.
The key to overcoming this habit is understanding why it happens and then taking active steps to manage your time better to get a better outcome every day.
What is Procrastination?
Basically, this is when you put things off that you should be focusing on, in favour of doing something that you enjoy more, or something that you are more comfortable doing.
There are a number of simple steps we can follow to deal with the problem.
1. Recognise the problem
Here you need to be very honest with yourself. You probably know that you procrastinate to some extent, but here are some useful indicators that might help:
- You fill your day with low priority tasks
- You re-read emails several times without starting work on them
- You leave items on a to-do list for a long time, even though they are important
- You sit down to start an important task but then go and make a coffee
- You regularly say yes to unimportant tasks others ask of you and fill your time with these instead of the important items on your to-do list
- You wait to be in the ‘right mood’ to take on important task
Please note that these are simply pointers, not rules. Putting off an unimportant task isn’t always procrastination, it may be good time-management! And putting off an important task for a short period of time if you are tired (for instance) may not be procrastination either, as long as its an occasional thing.
2. Work out why you procrastinate
This can depend on both you and the task, but it’s important to understand which of these is relevant in each situation so that you can adopt the best approach to tackle it.
There are many reasons why people procrastinate, but let’s look at the main three.
a. You find the task unpleasant.
Most jobs have their unpleasant or boring bits, that’s just the way of things. The best advice is to try to get these done and out the way quickly to allow you to concentrate on the more enjoyable aspects of your job. (worth reading on this area is ‘Eat That Frog’ by Brian Tracey)
b. You are poorly organised.
Highly organised people tend to hold off the temptation to procrastinate because they will have a prioritised to-do list which emphasises the importance of the tasks at hand, and when they are due to be done.
These people are often very good at planning how long a task will take to complete and how to break a task down into manageable parts.
(If you are like me and are keen to use the latest technology in your daily routines, then take a look at an Outlook add-in by Franklin Covey called Plan Plus. I love it.
Also have a look at the Pomodoro Technique – brilliant for those with a competitive nature! www.pomodorotechnique.com)
c. You feel overwhelmed by the task
This is much more common than most professionals would admit to. You are very good at your core job, but feel you lack the skills or resources necessary to be comfortable doing other things. Unfortunately these tasks do not go away. A great example for many professionals is business development and marketing.
Often perfectionists are the worst here, they feel they don’t have the skills to do the task perfectly, so end up not doing it at all.
3. Adopt Anti-Procrastination Strategies
Procrastination is a habit, and like all habits, it can be broken no matter how deeply engrained it is. But, because it is a habit it won’t go away overnight, you will need to work hard to break it, and it only stops being a habit when you have persistently stopped doing it.
The key is to use as many approaches as possible to maximise your chances of breaking the procrastination cycle and become better time managed.
Here some tips and thoughts to help you stop procrastinating:
If you find the task unpleasant:
- Give yourself a reward for completing a task
- Think about the unpleasant consequences of not doing the task
- Think about the rewards to you personally of getting the task done
- Aim to eat a frog every morning first thing – get an unpleasant task done and out the way to enjoy the rest of your day.
If you procrastinate because you are not well organised, then get organised!
- Keep a to-do list so that everything is there in black and white to see
- Prioritise your to-do list and do the tasks the order you set
- Become a master of planning and scheduling tasks so that you know when you are going to do things and when they are due to be completed
- Set goals based on time (see also www.pomodorotechnique.com)
- Focus on one task at a time
If you procrastinate because you feel overwhelmed:
- Try breaking the task into smaller, more manageable tasks and create an action plan
- Start with the parts that you are comfortable with, and even if they aren’t the logical first parts, do them to build your confidence in the task.
- Seek help. Additional training take do wonders to build confidence and the skills necessary to overcome so many tasks, particularly if the task is out of your professional comfort zone.
I hope that some of this helps, and helps you start to develop an action plan to overcome procrastination. Please do get on in touch with me if you would like to discuss any aspect of this blog post further.
For more on developing yourself, your staff and improving the profitability of your business, please do get in touch. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, use the contact page on my website www.jamesnathan.com or call me on 07736 831151. Follow me on Twitter at @jamesnathanxp, connect to me on LinkedIn, or follow me on Facebook.
I look forward to being in touch.