I have been meaning to write something about procrastination for a while now, but I keep putting it off!
I get this quite often. Putting off things I need to do, sometimes things I want to do, certainly things I know I should do. This could be work related, or household chores, or even activities I actually enjoy doing. Instead of getting on with them, I check social media, have one more coffee, randomly move things around for no reason, other tasks that could easily be left.
I usually get around to the task at hand eventually, then kick myself for not just getting on with it.
More than 84% of the population has experience of putting off those all important must-do tasks.
I used to think I was just being lazy. Procrastination is often confused with laziness, but they are very different. Procrastination is an active process – you choose to do something else instead of the task that you know you should be doing. Laziness on the other hand is inactivity.
Procrastination usually (but certainly not always) involves ignoring unpleasant or difficult tasks that are probably quite important, in favour of those that are more enjoyable or certainly ones that are easier. It is about 'eating that frog' (more of that later). It could be making a difficult work call, it could be doing your accounts, or the tackling the dreaded pile of ironing. It ay even be something you know is good for you and that you actually enjoy. I have been running or years now, I always feel great after a run. Yet every morning before I set off, I put it off and off!
Work related procrastination is probably at al all time high given that we are all spending more time at home than ever before. We simply don't have the divide between work and home and there are more potential distractions.
Even a little bit of procrastination can make us feel guilt or shame. This can then lead to reduced productivity which then may lead to ultimately to miss out on achieving our goals. If we procrastinate over a long period of time, we can become demotivated, disillusioned and depressed. It can be a vicious cycle, but one that can be broken.
More on procrastination - BBC Online - Why procrastination is about managing emotions, not time
Ten top tips for overcoming procrastination
Remember that procrastination is a habit. Habits stop being habits when you avoid doing them. This obviously is far easier said than done. You can give yourself the best possible chance of succeeding by following these top tips. Like many habits hypnotherapy can be highly effective in breaking them and replacing them with good habits.
Let go of previous procrastination guilt. Don’t dwell on how you used to be. Approach with positivity that you can, and you will change.
Minimise distractions. An easy one this. Turn off your email notifications and social media. Turn off the TV when working from home.
Get organised. Often the task at hand may seem overwhelming. If it is a particularly big thing, break it down to bite-size tasks. Write down the tasks that you need to complete, and put in place a time frame.
Set a deadline. Often we procrastinate over the things where there is no set deadline. So give yourself one.
Start small. It is better to go for a one-mile run than to do nothing at all. And after that one mile, if you carry on then that is a bonus. Or if you have to read a book, start by saying you will read just 10 pages – that is manageable. ‘Just doing something will get you going and may surprise yourself with how much you achieve.
Give yourself a reward. If you complete a difficult task, reward yourself with a small treat and pay attention to how good it feels to finish things! Remember that feeling of accomplishment and achievement.
Ask someone to check in on you. Peer pressure works! If it is a work-related task, a good manager will check in on progress. Online tools such as Procraster can help you to monitor yourself.
Act as you go. Tackle small things as soon as they crop up, rather than letting them build up over another day. A small amount of effort every day stops things becoming overwhelming. This is especially true for email overload.
Rephrase your inner dialogue. The phrases "need to", "have to" and ‘should do’ are simply not helpful. Flip these phrases. Try saying to yourself, "I choose to," this gives toy far more control and a greater sense of ownership.
Aim to ‘eat the frog’! Get those unappealing, unpleasant or difficult tasks out of the way early. This will give you the rest of the day to focus on more enjoyable tasks and activities. You will feel such a sense of relief that you will be set up for the rest of the day.
Productivity consultant Brain Tracy named the Eat The Frog method after this vivid piece of advice from Mark Twain. “If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first.”
Now that I have jotted down some thoughts on procrastination I feel much better for it!
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Malcolm Struthers Hypnotherapy - Online and in-person in Dumfries & Galloway