Procrastination : are you hitting snooze on your life?
I think I’ll just have five more minutes. Zzzz…
Are you hitting the snooze button on your life?
We often feel procrastination is the easy option. And in some ways, it is. There are definite advantages to putting things off.
For a start, it’s naughty – and that’s always more fun than being good. We’re bold non-conformers, beating the system, cleverly sneaking a little advantage. We’re easy riders, zooming on our Harleys along the road of least resistance. And if we’re lucky, things may change and we may manage to avoid doing it at all. Woo-hoo!
We’re so carried away with the adrenalin rush of relief at not having to face that stressful situation right now, we forget that the clock’s still ticking. And eventually, if we don’t take that action we’ve been dreading, it’ll be too late.
Why do we procrastinate?
It’s understandable, really. It’s that sick feeling in our stomachs at the thought of that unpleasant confrontation. It’s the lump in our throats when we imagine failing, or being made to look foolish. It’s the dragging heaviness of our bodies as, reluctantly, we start on that unappealing task.
Our bodies are saying, Noooo! Don’t do this! And it feels all wrong to go against our gut instincts; they’ve been keeping us safe for a long time, after all.
So, instead of going beyond our bodies’ wishes, we take alternative actions. We make a list of Things to Be Done, starting with ‘Make this list’ so we can cross one thing off already. Then we rewrite it to make it look neater (or is that just me?) Or we create a beautiful new Work Timetable we’ll never follow.
We reorganise our work area, check our emails, make coffee or phone a friend. We search for advice on the internet, plan the best way to do it and make copious notes we’ll never refer to again. Anything rather than do the one thing we should be doing: getting on with it.
Getting beyond that No
Why should we go beyond that gut reaction?
Because our brains know we should do it or need to do it, however much we don’t want to. Just as we manage to overcome our natural feelings to save someone from danger, so we can conquer fear of failure, find the discipline to fight boredom and face the risk of social embarrassment.
Yes, we can do it. We don’t need to put our lives on snooze any longer.
We can face that fear and just do it. Whether it’s asking for something we want, taking on greater responsibilities or trying something we’ve never done, it’s worth taking that deep breath and jumping in feet first.
We don’t need to confine ourselves within our cosy little comfort zone. Taking a few risks can pay off by building our self-confidence as well as boosting our careers and relationships.
The same applies to tasks we just don’t want to do. We can cope with that tedious, unpleasant slog. We are perfectly capable of doing that exam revision, writing that report, filling in that scary application form or getting that dirty job done. So let’s not waste any more time procrastinating – if we build up the problem for too long, the feeling of dread can end up harder to bear than having to complete the task!
Ways to beat procrastination
Think about the advantages you’ll get from having finished. Imagine how good that will feel, and tell yourself it’ll be worth that extra effort.
Think about the consequences of not completing the task. Is it actually essential – and are you the only person who can do it? Is there a time element involved? Is this a requirement from someone else, or will the only person you’ll be letting down be yourself? Will you hate yourself afterwards for wasting all that time you could have used for something more worthwhile?
Get the support you need. Would you find it easier with someone to direct the task, or working with a collaborator instead of struggling alone? Do you need more advice or information? Do you need someone to take over your other responsibilities to free you up for this task?
Work in a productive environment. Do you work better in peace and silence, or with music playing, or with a buzz of work activity around you? Do you find it easier to focus in an area dedicated to work, or a more social, relaxed situation? Don’t allow yourself to get distracted, but find your most congenial workplace.
Don’t underestimate how long it will take to complete the task. Consider which problems are likely to arise and allow time for delays.
Set a specific day or time for starting the task, and don’t let yourself get side-tracked into ‘busy work’ instead – tell yourself to get on with it. Allow a few minutes to prepare your work space and find the items and information you need in advance, so you’re all set up, ready to go.
Allocate a time when you’ll be fresh and working at your best – don’t leave it to the end of the day, hoping it’ll somehow get squeezed out of your timetable by something ‘more urgent’.
If it’s a lengthy, complicated activity, try breaking it down into shorter steps. For example, if you have a long piece of writing to do, setting out headings can help you to feel more ready to start.
Arrange structured breaks if it’s a long task. Either do something different, or take a complete break away from your work environment to avoid burn-out. But have someone who will chivvy you back to the job once your break-time is over if you’re likely to need it.
Plan a reward for completing the task – so at least you’ve got something to live for.
If we can stop hitting the snooze button and make the effort to catch up with the tasks we should already have done, life will be so much better – and, who knows, maybe we’ll even find it easier to get up in the mornings!
What are you putting off doing? Got any tips on fighting procrastination?
Leave us your comments below.