Believe it or not procrastination is more than putting something off. According to psychological researchers, it is choosing to delay an important task that we intend to do despite knowing it may have negative consequences later.
While we all put tasks off from time to time, for some people, this is habitual. Indeed, as the saying goes: “Everyone procrastinates, but not everyone is a procrastinator”.
So you’re probably wondering, why does it matter? Whether you procrastinate occasionally or often, it can have negative consequences, which can affect your business.
Popular beliefs are that people may put tasks off because they fear failure, are perfectionists, or find it more exciting to wait until the last minute.
Surprisingly, these reasons are not supported by research, according to a 2012 literature review on procrastination, published in the International Journal of Psychological Studies.
So what are the causes? They can range from the task is unpleasant; boring and uninteresting; the deadline is distant, so completing the task feels less urgent; low self-esteem, low self-efficacy affection our belief in our ability to succeed in a particular situation; and even depression.
While understanding the nature of procrastination is important, so too is getting tasks done!
With this being said, I believe these tips will help you tackle procrastination like a boss.
- Write a to-do list of priorities
- Break tasks down into smaller pieces
- Record how long it takes you to do regular tasks, so you can make more accurate estimates in the future. Then, decide how to approach your tasks.
- Doing your worst task first, so the rest seem easier
- Starting an enjoyable task, then, without taking a break, using this momentum to switch to a task you’ve been delaying
- Planning to spend just five minutes on a task, then, at the end of that period, reassessing whether you can spend another five minutes on it
- Setting a specific amount of time for a task
- Doing a task at the time of day you feel most productive, energetic or creative
- Working in environments with minimal distractions
- Doing tasks as soon as you remember them, rather than delaying and forgetting
- Using reminders to prompt you to do something
- Visualising yourself doing your tasks
- Focusing on your breathing whenever you feel unsettled
- Planning rewards as a break or for when you’ve achieved something
A final step in overcoming procrastination is to identify when to do your tasks. This can involve creating a schedule of what to do and when. Start by allocating time for existing commitments, and then add the tasks you may have been avoiding, including any steps you have broken them into.
Of course, spontaneous events can disrupt schedules if they’re too inflexible. If you find it hard to get back on track in these cases, ‘unscheduling’ may be the answer. Create a schedule of only existing commitments, so you can see where to fit in tasks you may be avoiding. When one of these ‘free’ blocks of time appears, go to your prioritised to-do list and approach a task.
Katie Kirsopp is the founder of Your Part Time PA. She also has a Tier 2 Accreditation in Banking. Do you need a VA or help with business tasks? Visit www.yourparttimepa.com/