Do you find yourself wasting time instead of working on important, meaningful tasks that drive your business forward? Do you catch yourself doing trivial things when you really should be productive and working smart? That’s procrastination.
The word is derived from the Latin verb procrastinare — to put off until tomorrow. It also stems from the ancient Greek word akrasia — doing something against our better judgment.
Chronic procrastinators often leave tasks to the last moment, or spend valuable time staring at the wall. It’s more common than you may think. Even highly driven, successful people procrastinate from time to time.
Although you may feel like you’re being lazy when you procrastinate, that’s not it. Dr. Piers Steel, a leading expert on procrastination and professor of motivational psychology at the University of Calgary says it’s all about mindset. Procrastination is a form of self-sabotage.
There are plenty of articles that explain the psychology of procrastination, but the real question is… what can you do to make it stop?
Procrastination is a habit, and if you understand how it shows up for you, you can replace it with a better one. Figuring out which type of procrastinator you are may help you decode the behaviour and break the habit.
Are you a perfectionist?
Surprisingly, an underlying reason for procrastination often is perfectionism. In your subconscious mind, if you’re not sure something will bring results that match your incredibly high standards, you’d rather not do it at all. Perfectionists also tend to spend excessive amounts of time on tasks because they want the outcome to be perfect. The truth is: nobody’s perfect. Let go of those unrealistic standards, get started, and get it done.
Is it about performance?
Are you that person who says, “I do my best work last minute”? Do you find deadlines exciting and believe you’re at your best when rushed? Science shows that this is a complete myth, and the opposite is true. Ask yourself honestly. Is it really your best work when there’s no time left to review what you have done? Putting things off until the very last moment only creates stress, guilt, and ineffectiveness. Change this behaviour as it’s just not worth it.
Do you have trouble prioritising tasks because there’s too much on your to-do-list? So much that you don’t know what to do first, so you postpone making decisions? You’re a pro at filling up your calendar, but when being busy becomes an excuse for not doing something, it’s not helpful. Rather than facing a challenge head on or simply admitting you don’t want to do it, you put the blame on being too busy. All you’re doing is creating chaos to avoid what you need to do right now.
Always focused on the next big idea?
Do you love finding new projects to take on, only to get bored with them a few weeks later? It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs. Do the latest trend and developments excite you, and are you quick to implement but not so good at following through? You are great at making decisions and taking action, but do you take consistent action in one direction long enough to see results? Getting started comes naturally, but completion is your biggest challenge. What you need to do is make it stick. Don’t pursue anything new until you’ve finished what you’re currently working on.
Top Tips to Break the Procrastination Cycle
- Get organised
Invest in a wall planner, a paper diary, start using the calendar app on your phone, or simply make a daily to-do-list. Then do what needs doing and tick it all off.
- Set achievable goals
It’s much easier to get started on a project when you set simple, reachable goals rather than work with a vague, big plan or half-baked idea.
- Set deadlines
Aim to get tasks and projects completed a few days (or hours) in advance. That way, if something unexpected happens, you have some extra time to sort it out.
- Remove distractions
Get rid of everything you don’t need near you, so you don’t get needlessly side-tracked halfway through your task. Turning off your phone is a great start.
- Get the hard stuff done first
A nightmare for the chronic procrastinator but make sure to complete your most challenging task first. When that’s done, everything else seems less daunting.
Relaxation is not procrastination!
Taking some me-time and relaxing boosts your energy, where procrastination drains it. There is a big difference. When you feel overwhelmed by the tasks on your schedule, the urgency required to get things done, or if you simply feel overcommitted, it’s okay to take a moment. Reset and recharge, then get stuck in.