Written by Matt Heemskerk LLB, RTC
We all experience procrastinating behaviours sometime in our lives. Sometimes procrastination is beneficial because you are putting off tasks to accomplish others that are more important. In this case, procrastinating is about priorities and perhaps is not procrastination at all. Problems arise when you are not productive, perhaps spending inordinate amounts of time binging on Netflix programs at the expense of your responsibilities. Then, you may miss deadlines, cause rifts in your relationships or experience unhealthy amounts of stress and anxiety. Here are three steps you can take to help overcome the negative impacts of procrastination.
- Action before motivation
Often people think that they will get working on a task when the motivation strikes. The high amount of stress that usually strikes before a deadline can be a great motivator. However, if you take the initiative and make small steps motivation usually kicks in before you need to experience high stress. For example, if you are stuck on a project try to work on it for 15 minutes and see what happens. Before you know you will have spent an hour on the task or if you do not at least something was accomplished. A caveat – you have to be aware of when your motivation wanes because otherwise your time will be spent less effectively and you may throw this technique out the window because it is too hard.
- Make a Decision
One of the most effective techniques to end procrastination is make a real decision to do it, to delegate it or to drop it. One effective way “to do” tasks is writing prioritized lists of the tasks you have to accomplish during the day. Then, cross off all tasks except the first two and focus on getting those accomplished. Keep a cumulative record of your tasks and reprioritize the next day.
If you are not getting to some tasks, delegate or drop them. Many people are resistant to delegation because they are determined to do it themselves or believe that the task cannot be accomplished by another. The fact is that many tasks can be delegated but delegation requires trust or costs money. The payoff is time and a sense of relief that the task is completed. I delegate things like my taxes to an accountant or washing my car to a hand washing service.
Drop the task if you really do not want to do it. For example, often people procrastinate on things they “should” get to but never will. In that case, telling yourself “you could do it” clarifies whether you actually want to accomplish the task. Then, you can make a real decision to drop the item from your list if you do not want to do it.
- Make a Plan and Follow Through
Making a plan not only breaks larger tasks into smaller ones, it also frees up your mental energy to accomplish other tasks. In one study on the effects of procrastination, one group was told to write about unfulfilled tasks and another was told to write out unfulfilled tasks and make a plan to achieve them. Then, both groups read 10 pages from a novel and were given a comprehension test. The group that wrote out a plan performed better in the test. Once you make the plan, follow through, otherwise you are right back where you started.