Most people, at some point or another, find themselves deep in procrastination mode. It’s so common that it even has its own week: National Procrastination Week is March 4-10, 2018. For some, we procrastinate with mindless escapes such as cat videos and online games. Others engage in procrastination by taking on productive tasks such as cleaning the refrigerator, reorganizing the closet, or responding to emails.
Sometimes we procrastinate to avoid an unpleasant task or conversation. Sometimes we don’t know how to get started or we are daunted by the feeling that the task is just too big. For some people, the fear of failing or not being perfect causes them to push the task off until they feel more prepared. Whatever the reason, and reasons are unique to each of us and each situation, here are a few things you can do to address procrastination in your life.
One of the very first steps to putting an end to procrastination is to recognize that you are doing it. It’s pretty easy to recognize that we are procrastinating when we have spent the last hour watching dance videos from the 80’s. However, it can be hard to do – especially if you are someone who procrastinates by starting other productive projects instead of tackling that daunting task.
If you are a list-maker, be mindful of how you are picking and choosing the activities to start. Has that one task been on your list for the past 3 days? Are you, all of a sudden, getting a whole lot crossed off your list? Could this be because you are avoiding one particular task?
Bring attention to your emotional reaction to thoughts about the work you have to accomplish. Sometimes we “create priorities” that push the unpleasant task off until the next day. Sometimes, you may notice a brief feeling of anxiety or guilt when you think about a project that you have not started yet.
Once you recognize that you are pushing a task down the road, acknowledge it. Do so without beating yourself up about it. Don’t add more stress to the situation with negative self-talk. Acknowledge it and move to the next step.
Attempt to identify what it is about the task that is challenging you. In reality – that is the issue that you need to address, not the procrastination. Procrastination is like a symptom of something deeper that you may need to resolve.
Take an honest look at the reasons you are avoiding the task. If you need support, talk with a trusted friend or mentor. They can ask you reflective questions that might help you shed light on why you are avoiding the task.
Create a realistic plan
Your plan needs to be specific to the reason that you identified for the procrastination. Each situation may have a different reason, especially if you are an experienced procrastinator.
Here are a few general plans – but you will have to create a plan that works best for you:
- If the job is too big – Break the job down into small segments and assign due dates for each segment. If you find that you are still procrastinating, either do more reflection or break the segments down into even smaller pieces.
- If you are afraid of failing – evaluate your relationship with failure. Failure is an important learning opportunity. It can teach us many things, including how to adapt our actions in the future. Recognize that there is no such thing as perfection.
- If you resent having to complete the task – resentment arises when we don’t feel in control of the decision to complete the task. This can occur when the task is a job responsibility or when we have agreed to do something that we don’t really want to do.
- Job responsibility – it may help to recognize how the task fits into the overall success of the program. Try to focus on the contribution you are making as you complete the task.
- You agreed to take on the task – you have made a commitment and should honor it. You could ask that someone else be assigned the task, but consider your future relationship with the task organizer. You may need to work through this one last task, but moving forward, carefully consider tasks before accepting them. If you are not completely passionate about the task, say NO!
- If you aren’t feeling inspired– when waiting for inspiration, you may find yourself in a chicken-or-egg situation. Sometimes getting started, even in the smallest manner, produces inspiration.
- If it’s not really important anymore – reevaluate your goals and the reasons that you have this task on your list in the first place. Perhaps you want to take an exercise class, but seem to find other more important things to do instead. Revisit why you had the original desire to take the class. List the benefits would you feel from the class and your long term health goals. Find a friend who might go with you or help you maintain accountability. You have to take care of yourself in order to take care of others!