How to Manage Procrastination

Procrastination is simply putting things off - and we’ve all done it at some stage, even if you're a high flying executive! It doesn’t mean you’re lazy or not productive, it just means you may be focusing on some tasks at the expense of others, or maybe you’re just having some difficulty overcoming the inertia of getting a particular task started.

And goal setting is one of the first things to get put-off because it’s often seen as a non-urgent activity (even though it’s extremely important), so effectively managing your time is important for achieving goal setting success.

But whether you’re putting off action on a goal or any other task in your ball-court, the important question is, “Why?”. And if you know WHY you’re procrastinating then you are well on the way to being able to overcome it.

Your behaviour profile will indicate some of the causes – ‘Eagles’ may procrastinate over seemingly routine or mundane tasks, ‘Peacocks’ may simply lose interest in a task, ‘Owls’ may wait to achieve perfection before starting a task and ‘Doves’ may avoid tasks that take them out of their comfort zone.

[What's a behaviour profile and what have all these birds got to do with time management? Click on the "About YOU" tab on the NavBar to find out.]

It is important to recognize that your particular behaviour profile will have an influence on HOW you take action on particular tasks and which ones you are likely to procrastinate over, but regardless of this there are also some common causes:

  • There are more enjoyable things to do! Or perhaps you’re just waiting to be in the right frame of mind for launching into action.
  • There are other tasks to do that are in your ‘comfort zone’ and therefore easier to do.
  • You may find the task a little daunting and not know where to start, particularly if the task is not within your normal skill set – yes, even Eagles can feel overwhelmed by challenging tasks!
  • Fear of failure – the “About Goals” tab on the NavBar talks about fear of failure related to goal setting and why this is the reason many people don’t achieve their goals, but this commentary is just as applicable to any other task you may fear.
  • Just can’t get started – building up enough momentum to get the ball rolling can take unforeseen effort depending on the task.

You know yourself better than anyone – are you prone to procrastination? Why? Now, be honest with yourself here – understanding whether you are likely to procrastinate on particular types of tasks is vital to overcoming this period of inaction.

So, how do you deal with procrastination?

First of all, you will KNOW WHEN you are procrastinating on a particular task – if you are using a ToDo List or any other type of activity planner [see the section on “Planning and Organisation”], just monitor your progress against these to see the impact of procrastination. Specifically for goal setting, you can also monitor your progress against your goal action plan to see if you are falling victim to procrastination.

The important thing is to ask yourself ‘why’ and then ‘how’.

For example:

  • Motivate yourself by setting yourself a reward for getting a particular task done and an even better reward for getting it done on time. Interestingly, most people feel bad when they procrastinate – that’s your subconscious telling you that you’re focusing on the wrong things. Your subconscious also rewards you for completing a task by the little buzz you get when it’s done – so in a way, completing a task is it’s own reward.
  • Remind yourself of the reason WHY you are doing this task in the first place and why it is important to do – and if this is a goal related task, then remind yourself of your big-picture, your motivation and your focus. Keep this in the forefront of your mind to motivate you to continue.
  • Break down daunting tasks (and goals of course) into more manageable pieces so you can get some action under your belt. As you start to achieve results, motivation to continue will naturally follow.
  • Enlist the help of a mentor or support group to follow up on your progress.

And specifically for goal setting, combining your goal actions with your day-to-day routine action items will help too, as it will become ‘normal’ for a goal action to be part of your day-to-day routine.

Better still, when you are preparing your action plan for your goals or even just your daily work planner, ask yourself whether each task is the type of task you’re likely to procrastinate on – if it is, make sure you give yourself every opportunity to be able to achieve it by scheduling it clear of other major tasks that may divert your attention.

So if you often feel like you have too much to do and too little time to do it, you are not alone. Many people are suffering from what is known as "time famine" the feeling that there just isn't enough time to do what you need to do, let alone what you want to do.

The good news is that it doesn't have to be this way.

At the end of the day, there is no magic solution – you just have to bite the bullet and get into it.

“Bite the Bullet” “Just Do It!” “Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today!”

There are numerous clichés you can use to illustrate the point. There are also some great motivational and inspirational posters available in the Internet (Free ones too) – find one that motivates YOU and hang it on your wall where you can see it every day.

It’s all about attitude – embrace the power of positive thinking, and know that YOU are the only person who can make this happen!

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