Procrastination is when we put off a task to do something we find more enjoyable. Julie tells me she is going to lose the excess weight and will start her diet next week. Tom will get started on revision, after he’s finished his computer game, Jo will revise her CV tomorrow as she is feeling too tired right now.
We procrastinate when we sit down to do a task and then get up and make a coffee, or tidy our desk, check our emails, or do tasks which we find easier.
For Jo, procrastination is a good thing, for tasks like writing a CV (or this article) you need to be bright and alert. Start when you are a bit tired and it will take twice as long and not be as good. This is delay for a good reason, but we can’t let this be our main approach to tasks.
When something is unpleasant it can often be a good idea to get on with it right away and to give ourselves a reward once we complete. Sit down and focus and get the coffee afterwards.
Knowing you can procrastinate is a great first step, it gets you ready to take action to improve. Let’s look at some of the key things you can do to overcome procrastination.
- Plan your day the day before so you know what is essential to do when you arrive at work bright and alert. This should help you to stop doing the low priority tasks on arrival such as looking at emails. Make it a habit to focus on something important first thing.
- Understand why you procrastinate. It’s not always because a task is unpleasant, sometimes it is complicated and you aren’t sure where to start, or you need to have a lot of material available and you can’t find it. It helps to break a task down and get prepared before you start. What works for me is to clear my desk, to only have what I need within sight, everything else is in a drawer or cupboard, and I’ve got everything ready that I may need to refer to. Think of it like cooking and having all your ingredients weighed out and on the table.
- Be accountable to someone. Telling someone you will lose 7 pounds in a month, or finish the report by Friday helps, even better is to give them a regular progress report. But you can do this yourself, you can log your progress.
- Think of the pain of not completing the task – what will your boss say if the task isn’t completed, how will you feel at the party/wedding if the dress you plan to wear is still tight etc.
- Plan a reward, it doesn’t have to be food, but something that you would enjoy doing, perhaps it is reading the right hand side bar on the Daily Mail website!
The best way to beat procrastination is to plan your ‘must do’ tasks the day before, then the next day avoid distractions. Move to a quiet room, switch off all technological tools and don’t check emails till your urgent tasks are completed. Don’t focus on perfection, once you complete you can edit, but you can’t edit nothing.
Denise Taylor, chartered psychologist and award winning career coach. Denise is the author of Find Work at 50+. Cutting-edge innovative careers coaching. Read more at www.amazingpeople.co.uk/hello