I have recently been making great efforts to keep everything on track with my business and home life. Too many balls to juggle, not enough time in the day… that kind of thing. This led me to consider my procrastination and whether I could manage my life better. Procrastination can lead to tension when things don’t get done, or when it feels as if they have only been part done. The sense of constantly playing catch up can then follow.
The failure to make clear decisions, stay focussed and follow through can mean you start to second guess yourself. This can then lead to more procrastination. William James (sometimes called the ‘Father of American Psychology’) stated that ‘nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task’. In my case, I self-coach myself. Where I feel like I’ve gone off track, I will re-focus by using goal setting and action plans. However, many people would be unfamiliar with this approach.
Procrastination is very common, and researchers have found that high levels of it are linked to low self-esteem, illogical beliefs, a fear of failure, depression and poor behaviours.
One possible reason for those with low self-esteem to procrastinate is because it can offer a useful screen to hide behind (e.g. ‘It didn’t work out because I didn’t try hard enough’). Those with rebellious natures may also procrastinate to avoid being controlled by externally imposed deadlines, for example.
Here are 6 tips that can help you to procrastinate less:
Perform the task for just a few minutes – The hardest part of a task can be getting going. If you begin something even for a few minutes, the motivation to complete it should then kick in. The Zeigarnik effect describes how once you start something, you stay alert until you finish it.
Carry out the key and difficult jobs first – Our biological clocks mean that we are often most alert around 10am. Therefore, do the tough and important stuff first as starting these when you in a tired state is difficult. This could lead to you postpone them for another day.
Control your surroundings – Is your environment suitable for the task at hand or could it allow procrastination to grow? As an example, one study stated that ‘the mere presence of a … phone may be sufficiently distracting to produce diminished attention’. Distractions are highly likely to divert you, so minimise them where you can.
Give yourself short deadlines – Separate tasks into smaller parts and set yourself short deadlines for each. The further into the future that an event or deadline is, the less bearing it is likely to have on your decisions.
Increase confidence – You can increase confidence by looking at how people in a similar position have been successful, and then modelling their actions. This can make completing a task seem more possible and provide a roadmap to follow.
Stretch yourself – You might think that making tasks more difficult will mean someone puts them off even more. However, there is evidence that there is greater fulfilment in the successful completion of challenging tasks. To prevent boredom, making a task more demanding can work, but it is important that it remains achievable.
HOW I CAN HELP
As a coach, I can work with you to cut procrastination out of your life. If you feel that you need help to become a more dynamic decision-maker, please feel free to contact me.