“I work better under pressure.” “It’s fine to leave it til the last minute.” “I’ll get it done eventually.” If you’ve ever found yourself uttering one of these phrases, you might be a procrastinator!
Procrastination is a common behavioral pattern of always postponing behaviors and actions, even in the face of deadlines. Procrastination can have a very negative impact on productivity and success and procrastinators off struggle to get started with tasks and often find themselves putting things off and doing other things instead (yup, that’s where our phones are just TOO convenient!).
Despite the negative consequences, procrastination is rampant in our culture. Let’s look at why people procrastinate, what the consequences are, and what you can do about it.
WHY DO I PROCRASTINATE?
There are tons of reasons that contribute to procrastination. Sometimes it’s caused by a simple lack of motivation or desire to accomplish the task at hand. Sometimes fear of failure can prevent us from taking action. So the task itself and the outcome of the task can be directly related to our drive to procrastinate.
Sometimes our personality characteristics set us up for procrastination behaviors. For example, people who are prone to perfectionist may procrastinate as a way to avoid what they will turn into a much more lofty goal. Or people who have difficulty with time management often procrastinate simply because they are not able to plan their time effectively.
Also, our history and our environment can contribute to procrastination behaviors. A repeated history of procrastination can become a habit that we turn to without even realizing, making it difficult to change. Also, environmental distractions, like our phones, other people, other tasks, can often be powerful contributors to procrastination.
SO WHAT IF I PROCRASTINATE?
So, there are a lot of things that contribute to developing procrastination behaviors, but so what? Why is this such an issue? Well there are a lot of negative consequences that come from regular procrastination. Some areas that are impacted include:
- Productivity: procrastination wastes a lot of time ultimately reducing our productivity and the amount of work we are able to get done.
- Stress: Leaving tasks to the last minute often causes a build up of stress and anxiety.
- Growth Opportunities: Procrastinators tend to avoid new opportunities as they arise and/or put off tasks that might help them achieve growth opportunities.
- Relationships: Procrastinators can be unreliable which can take it’s toll on both professional and personal relationships.
This is just a sampling of the many ways in which procrastination can be negatively impactful so it is definitely worth looking at and making change!
WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT MY PROCRASTINATION?
There are several techniques you can try to help overcome your tendency towards procrastination. Here are some tips and tricks to explore:
- Start Small: Large tasks are always daunting. Instead of starting a with something large and overwhelming, pick a small task to start your efforts. This builds confidence and momentum allowing you to take on the bigger tasks later.
- Break It Down: Large tasks are always overwhelming, especially when they have multiple components. Instead of putting one large item on your to-do list (e.g. clean the house), try breaking it down into it’s smallest components (e.g. do the dishes, fold the laundry, vacuum the bedroom). While it may looks like more items on your list, each item will feel more manageable and more approachable.
- Time Chunk: Using a timer for tasks can be a great tool to keep you focused. Have a big paper to write? Set a time for 20 minutes and commit to writing for that period of time. Because you know you have a break once the time goes off, you will be more focused and less distracted during that timed period.
- Phone Free: Yup, time to talk about the phone again! Whether you are working on your computer or cleaning your house, your phone is probably a constant distraction. As soon as you hear it ding, you are focused on it. Or something you just pick it up simply because you see it. When you want to stay focused and avoid getting sidetracked, put your phone away and out of hands reach.
- To-Do List: Utilize a to-do list (with large tasks broken down!) to keep you focused and on track. Commit to what you MUST do that day and then identify a few bonus tasks that you can add in if time allots. At the end of the day, create a to-do list for the following day.
Really the key to overcoming procrastination lies in the commitment to take action. Any small step is progress and will help keep you motivated to continue taking steps forward!