The Oxford English dictionary describes Procrastination as
“To put off doing something, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness.”
“To postpone or delay needlessly.”
Perfectionists are often procrastinators;
because it’s psychologically more acceptable to keep putting off a task than to face the possibility of falling short on performance.
There can also be big costs to procrastination: It can cause internal conflict, potentially leading to problems such as anxiety, stress, insomnia and problems with the gut and immune system and it can adversely affect personal relationships and teamwork in the workplace.
Procrastination is rarely a good thing and most of us procrastinate very poorly.
We choose to spend our time on tasks that provide zero value other than entertainment like surfing the internet or trawling through social media.
In fact, we often engage in procrastination behaviours that may be potentially harmful in the longer term, like eating unhealthy food, drinking alcohol or spending money needlessly.
Prolonged stressful situations can also cause us to procrastinate. Our fight or flight responses kick in and cause us to freeze. We get tunnel vision; we find it harder to think straight and make sound decisions and even harder to think strategically and be future focussed. So, we put things off, we wait or worse still we freeze.
Everyone procrastinates, but some people procrastinate much better than others.
Avoiding a particular piece of work doesn't mean you have to waste your time. So, procrastinate skillfully if you must procrastinate at all
Simply substitute another important task for the task you should be doing and you can try to make the most of it..
Respond to important emails. Note that this tip uses the word “important.” Responding to important emails is work that has to be done. If you’re going to waste time, this isn’t a bad way to spend it. Give yourself a time limit and accomplish as much as you can. Tools like Coveys Urgent Important Matrix and Susan Scott’s Decision tree can help with deciding what is urgent or important or could be delegated to someone else
Visualise your goals. Assuming you already have some well-defined goals, spend a few minutes visualising your success. It might give a needed boost your motivation. If you don’t have goals, now would be a good time to make some.NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) can help with visioning techniques and SMART goals and Well-formed outcomes can help with defining goals
Clean and tidy. Clean your bathroom. Tidy your desk. Take out the rubbish. Do some filing. Mop the floors. If your home or office is a mess, use the time to bring some order and cleanliness back into your life.
Read something worthwhile or take an online course.What do you need to learn? Do you have any required reading for work or school? Read it now. It keeps your brain engaged in a meaningful way.
Meditate and breathe. Maybe you need to clear your mind. Meditation has so many physical and psychological benefits and there are many breathing techniques to help you refocus. It’s a great habit to create. Maybe you’ll gain some insight regarding the cause of your procrastination. You will definitely feel calmer and more focused.
Do your shopping. This doesn’t apply to pleasure shopping. This is shopping for groceries or for drywall to fix the hole in the mudroom. What shopping do you need to do in the next week? Get it done today and free up that time later in the week.
Call your family. Call a relative you know you should call but haven’t for a while. Pick up the phone and get this important task out of the way. You’ll feel better afterwards. You might find that returning back to the work at hand isn’t as bad as you thought!
Update your CV. Maybe you’re feeling uninspired because you don’t like your current employment situation. No problem! Update your CV. You’ve probably been procrastinating on this anyway.
Exercise. How much are you exercising right now? If you’re under the daily exercise recommendation give it a go, you may as well exercise while you’re procrastinating.
- Identify why you procrastinate. Sit down and think about all the reasons you are putting off doing what you really should be doing. Is this an old habit or a newly acquired one? What help and support do you need to overcome your procrastination? Keep a learning log – what will you take from this experience?
Or talk to a coach who can help you get to the bottom of your procrastination and help you put actions in place to overcome it.
You can accomplish a lot while you're procrastinating. However, ensure you RETURN n back to your primary task as soon as possible.
If you need help to uncover the reasons behind your procrastination and want to learn techniques to be more productive then call me – 07828 496 388
Interested to know why we procrastinate?
In 2006,Todd Rogers and Max Bazerman, two Harvard professors, began to study why we procrastinate, to try to understand why do we avoid doing the things we know we should do….. even when it’s obvious that they are good for us or need to be done?
And they discovered it’s all to do with the Present You vs. the Future You.
The immediate benefits of the present choices, outweigh those of the future especially if the costs of our choices don't become apparent until much, much later in our lives.
The benefit of eating a sticky bun is immediate (think sugar rush!) and it outweighs the immediate cost of missing a gym workout today (which won’t show up until you’ve eaten many sticky buns and skipped the gym for months.)
The Future You knows you should do things that lead to the highest benefit in the long-term, but the Present You tends to overvalue things that lead to immediate benefit right now.
So what can we do about it?
If you want to reduce or stop procrastination, then you have to find a way to make your Present Self act in the best interests of your Future Self.
There are 3 key ways you can do this:
Make the rewards of long-term behaviour more immediate.
The reason we procrastinate is because our mind wants an immediate reward.
If we can find a way to make the benefits of good long-term choices more immediate, then it becomes easier to avoid procrastination.
One way to do this is to simply imagine the benefits your future self will enjoy. Use an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) technique to visualise (see, hear, feel) what your life will be like if you lose that 2 stones or saved that £100 now.
Make the costs of procrastination more immediate.
There are many ways to force you to pay the costs of procrastination sooner rather than later.
Being held to account by someone else can make procrastination feel more costly: For example, if you are exercising alone, missing your workout next week won’t impact your life much at all. Your health won’t deteriorate immediately because you missed one workout. The cost of procrastinating on exercise only becomes apparent after weeks and months of lazy behaviour. However, if you pre-commit to working out with a friend at 7 a.m. next Monday, then the cost of skipping your workout becomes more immediate. Miss this one workout and you let your friend down
You could also try
Stating publicly what you are doing. For example, post on a social media platform what you plan to do (eg “I will be publishing a new post every Monday.”)
Placing an expensive bet on your behavior. (“For each workout I miss, I will pay my friend £10.)
Making a physical consequence for your behavior. (“Every time I leave that report until the last minute, I have to do 10 burpees”)
Remove procrastination triggers from your environment.
The most powerful way to change your behaviour is to change your environment.
In a normal situation, you might choose to eat a biscuit rather than eat a fruit snack.
But if you haven’t bought chocolate biscuits to begin with the choice becomes fruit or no snack, It is much easier to make the right choice if you’re surrounded by better choices.
Identify your distractions and REMOVE them from your environment and help yourself to create a better choice