How do we avoid procrastination?

We’re all guilty of putting things off, or delaying the obvious, some people more than others.  But why do we do it and more importantly how do we avoid procrastination?

Whilst I knew I was going to write this posting, on two occasions it got pushed aside and replaced by different ‘more urgent’ projects.

So what exactly is procrastination?  The dictionary meaning implies:

The art of putting off or delaying; especially something requiring immediate attention

Worryingly 20% of people identify themselves as chronic procrastinators who leave pretty much everything until the last minute.  It is a no wonder that those who procrastinate in such a way are far more likely to be paid less, be unhappier and less healthy than those who don’t.

So why do we do it?

It is thought that procrastinators are not born that way and instead the theory is that the inherent technique is acquired within family culture.  Before you run off procrastinating from reading this to have a chat with your nearest and dearest it is also useful to know that there are more evidential reasons behind the delaying techniques.  According to Psychology Today there are three basic types of procrastinators:

– Arousal types: those who like the last minute euphoric rush

– Avoiders: those who possibly fear failure and certainly worry about what others might think

– Decisional: those who just can’t make a decision – easy as that – procrastination is avoidance of responsibility.

Procrastinators are also more likely to tell themselves lies to avoid the inevitable and over time the whole cycle becomes a way of life and so the Vicious circle begins.

How can we avoid it?

The simple answer is just keep focussed and stop that niggling voice in your head from distracting you.  Look past that internal dialogue to what you are aiming to achieve as a reward.

If you’re trying to give up smoking, look to the health aspects of both you and those around you.   If you’re wanting to study for an exam, look at the statistics that show that on average those ‘cramming’ will get worst results than those who take more time and who plan their study.  

Look at what you are supposed to be doing and then ask yourself why aren’t you doing it?

If your list of things to do is so immense you don’t know where to start, start by prioritising.  

As the Buddha quote reads:

“There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth … not going all the way, and not starting.”

If you’re overloaded with admin get somebody to help you whilst you concentrate on the tasks that matter.

Break down the tasks and work through them methodically and set reasonable goals.

Remember that in business the objective has to be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely).  Consider this when focussing on your goals be they professional or personal.

A workspace can make a huge impact on how we think and work.  If necessary change your environment although don’t use that as an excuse to procrastinate!   Instead use a change of scenery as your reward for the current task.

Be strict with yourself and give yourself clearly defined deadlines.  There is plenty of software out there that can enable you to create task lists.  Personally I have found the www.teuxdeux.com app great as it allows you to create daily lists, move them around if need be and even allows you a ‘some day’ list for those wishful thinking tasks that are nowhere near top priority.

Share your goal with those around you and the deadline you have set.   Once you have made it public, you may find people will start to ask you and spur you on.  Whilst people tend to do this for charity events, or even when losing weight or training it is still feasible to do this when working toward a big project deadline.

Give yourself time limits for those things that distract you.  Be real to yourself.  If you can’t help but continue to think about your Facebook account or the latest episode of your favourite TV show, schedule in a limited time for this and stick to it.

Above all get started and stay focussed on your goal!  Who needs procrastination?

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