Written By: Joanie Ogg, CTC, MCC
Google what the definition of procrastination and while there are a great many ways to say it, it boils down to postponing doing something. It is as simple as that so why is it such a challenge to cure. I decided to write this article in hopes that talking it out with all of you will help me to find a remedy to my procrastination ailment. Perhaps just recognizing that I have it will be a step to my personal cure.
When I think of the time I spend procrastinating by reading and responding to email as it comes in rather than allowing it to accumulate and dealing with it in one or two sessions during the day, or making a telephone call or making yet another cup of coffee rather than knuckling down to my tasks at hand, I know I could be more productive. I know that I want to be!
What about you? Do you ever find yourself putting off some task rather than dealing with it straight away? Does the need to rearrange the pantry cupboard or the tools in garage seem much more pressing in the face of some task that you really can’t bring yourself to start? If so, – you too may be falling into the procrastination trap.
So, why does it happen and what can we do about it?
According to one study, procrastination is caused by several “cognitive distortions” or, in other words, perception problems. These are (in the words of the study author):
- Overestimation of the time left to perform tasks
- Underestimation of the time required to complete tasks
- Overestimation of future motivational states
- Lack of reliance on the necessity of emotional congruence to succeed at the task
- Belief that working when not in the mood to work is suboptimal
Putting it another way or in more simplistic terms that I better understand:
- “I have plenty of time to get to that task. The deadline is not really till next week.”
- “It won’t take me that long once I get started.”
- “I will just wait and do it later today. I’ll do it later in the week because I’ll feel more like it then. I really don’t feel like it right now.”
- “I can’t do a good job if I’m just not in the right frame of mind.”
- “I don’t feel like doing it now and I shouldn’t because, in this mood, I won’t do a good job.”
In my online research to find a cure I came across a myriad of articles and helpful sites. To sum it up, I think following some of these guidelines might just help you, if you too suffer from this what seems to be now a curable disease!
- Start with clear, measurable, achievable goals.
- Break the task down into bite-size pieces.
- Commit five minutes to getting started then DO IT! At the end of five minutes, decide whether to commit to a further five minutes, and so on. This is an excellent way to break up the energy. It’s likely that once we get started on a task, we will just choose to finish it. Just think of all the extra time you can earn to use on new projects.
- Set up organizational files to keep you on track. Create three files: (1) catch-up; (2) keep-up and (3) get-ahead. Place the tasks that are overdue and one’s you have been putting off in the catch-up file. These are the ones you will need to put on your calendar to work on daily and you can check them of as you move through the list. The keep-up file can contain tasks as they arise and you can emphasize completing these. In the get-ahead file, schedule time to initiate steps to take to utilize time for projects and activities that you want to do but never seem to have the time for.
Dragging one’s feet or procrastination is unproductive and can even be harmful to our best interests if taken to extremes. It is not just a simple act of putting off until tomorrow what we could get done today. Studies show that procrastination is a symptom of self-doubt, self-downing, discomfort-dodging and irrational guilt. In turn, the results of procrastination can be a further stimulus for the erroneous beliefs that led to procrastination in the first place. Recognize that the change process is rarely smooth but will certainly have up’s and down’s. If we persist at making the effort to become more efficient and effective there is no question this will improve the quality of our lives!