How To Stop Procrastinating and Start Doing
There is an endless stream of things that need to be done - like shoes to be polished, kitchen cupboards to be turned out or junk mail to be opened - rather than the important thing you've been procrastinating about for weeks.
You're probably reading this because that sounds all too familiar. And yes, it'll get done when you're under more pressure as the deadline approaches but is the stress really worth it?
Is procrastination all bad?
The positive side of procrastination.
Does procrastination really achieve anything, other than your frayed nerves? On the plus-side, if you're doing brain-neutral activities such as housework, gardening or walking the dog, the right side of the brain is more easily engaged. The right brain is the creative side, so if you're thinking about a project or trying to come up with ideas to get started, this is useful. The trouble is that you still need to make time and get down to following through with all the great ideas your right brain has churned out.
The negative side.
If you're rushing to complete a job, procrastination can mean you miss deadlines or produce substandard work that isn't worthy of your abilities. That's the downside to it.
Why do we procrastinate?
Everyone procrastinates sometime and we do it for various reasons, such as:
- Anxiety over your ability to meet the demands expected of you. Subconsciously you think 'well I'm going to fail anyway, so why bother?'
- You use inactivity as a way of being able to control others if your part in a task - they can't do their bit until you've done yours.
- Day to day pressures mean that you can't prioritise effectively and work out a way to get on with the task.
- You do the peripheral tasks first because the main one seems too difficult.
- You don't have the skills or knowledge to start or complete the job.
- You feel it's something you just don't like doing, or don't want to do. Period.
And if it's a real problem...
Beat your procrastination demons.
So what do we do about this and how can we overcome procrastination? Students at California Polytechnic are advised:
1. Understand that procrastination activities are just that. 2. Get to grips with the real reasons for putting off the task. 3. Argue with yourself over these reason so that you can overcome them. 4. Get started with the task.
Do you recognise feeling excited and enthusiastic about the task when you're first assigned it and confident that you can succeed, but then realise that time is slipping away and the deadline is approaching faster than you thought? Stressful isn't it.
Here are some tips for beating procrastination.
- Divide the task in to small parts that you know you can manage and easily schedule into your day. Do each one at a time.
- Take a moment to remember previous successes. Remember how great it was to finish the job and see the look on your boss's/partner's etc face when they saw the result. Now focus on re-creating that with this task.
- Vocalise your plans - tell other people about what you're doing so that they ask you how you're getting along. It's not too impressive to have to say 'weellll, I haven't really got very far with that...'.
- Take 10 minutes. Make a start and do the task for 10 minutes and then stop. Chances are you'll feel enthusiastic once you've got started and want to do a little more...and a little more...
- Find a coach who will hold you accountable for your action (or lack of it).
- Go back to that image of your past successes and remember what people said about you when you. And imagine what they'd say if you let them down this time.
- List your priorities and stick to the important one. It's a matter of discipline.
No one is perfect. Great artists, writers and musicians don't produce a masterpiece every time and have a crisis of confidence so that they put off trying again. You're human, so accept that and work with what you've been given. If you need to learn a skill or must have a particular knowledge-set then ask for it or find it.
Nike has made a fortune from reminding people to Just Do It! So what are you waiting for?