It’s fast approaching 5.30pm and you’re still furiously working on a report you should have completed hours ago but have delayed starting. Are you guilty of putting off those tasks that you just don’t enjoy or that make you feel uncomfortable? Do you dodge the job that always appears at the top of your ‘to-do’ list? If so, you are not alone!
So, what is procrastination? Well, simply put, it’s a choice we make to delay the inevitable. It means that we know we have a job to do but something is stopping us from doing it, so we put it off and make the active choice to do something else instead.
Now, don’t get this confused with laziness. When you procrastinate, you aren’t dropping your tools and taking a mid-day nap, you will find another task to complete. Procrastination usually involves ignoring an unpleasant, but likely more important task, in favour of one that is more enjoyable or easier. It could be that you are avoiding having a difficult conversation with a member of your team, preferring to spend time re-reading emails or analysing achievement of key performance indicators.
There is no doubt that completing these tasks is probably easier, and even more enjoyable, than having that difficult conversation, however, that conversation will still be required once these other tasks have been completed.
There are things that we need to do every day that we don’t really like doing. It’s a natural instinct to avoid it and do something else in its place but, in business, that’s dangerous territory.
Here’s the reality…
It is believed that Mark Twain once said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” From this comes the more familiar saying “eat a frog for breakfast” I haven’t gone mad. I don’t want you to eat a frog, but you do need to wake up every day and make it a priority to do those tasks you dislike first.
Have that difficult conversation before 9:30am, this will result in a sense of achievement which will lead to you becoming more motivated and more productive. If you are prone to delaying tasks because you find them overwhelming, it may be necessary to break the task down into smaller, bitesize pieces that will appear more achievable. Rather than having a mountain to climb the task you have been avoiding becomes more attainable and you become more determined to achieve it one step at a time.
Another way to make a task more enjoyable is to identify the unpleasant consequences of avoiding it. For instance, what will happen if you don’t complete the work? How might it affect your personal, team or organisational goals?
The first step to overcoming procrastination is to recognise that you’re doing it. Then, identify the reasons behind your behaviour and use appropriate strategies to manage and overcome it.
Once you have acknowledged the reasons behind your procrastination and how to address these you will find that instead of dreading those tasks, you will learn to realise that procrastinating is a choice. You choose to put that task to one side and take on something else instead so how about making a different choice?
Choose to take on that task first. Get it out of the way before you start your day. You will be amazed at what will happen!!!
Do not expect this to be an easy process, however, there are ways to ease yourself in. Here’s some basic tips quoted from Mel Robbins who wrote a famous book ‘The 5 Second Rule’, and was an intense sufferer of procrastination:
1 – Forgive yourself!
We all do it. We all look for any task to do other than the one we have to do.
It’s ok, but now it’s time to change.
2 – Acknowledge it.
Tell yourself you know you are procrastinating, take some deep breaths and then tell yourself you are not going to do it today!
3 – Develop a starting ritual.
This could be as simple as going in to your working environment, putting the kettle on, taking some deep breaths while you wait for it to boil and make yourself a coffee. Once that’s in your hand, you know you need to go to your desk and tackle that task straight away!
4 – Start for five minutes.
Just do that task for minutes at a time while you are retraining your brain. Gradually increase it as the days
Most importantly, remember that procrastination is like a credit card. It’s a lot of fun until you get the bill!!
Now, go eat that FROG!!!