Time Management (Part 4) – Beating Procrastination

We are all guilty of procrastination in some shape or form, at one time or another, but some of us more than others.  If you are reading this article, then procrastination must be having some impact on your life.  Are you serious about beating procrastination or looking or more excuses to justify why you procrastinate?  If you fall in the latter category, please stop reading.  If you are serious, here are my top tips for combating procrastination:

Tip #1 – Understand your procrastination

Is your procrastination habitual or does it only rear its head when it comes to a particular task or issue?  If you can’t answer this question, start a log.  Identify the times that you procrastinate and the circumstances surrounding it.  Any patterns that you can identify should give you a starting point.

Are you in a self-destructive cycle that looks something like the diagram below?  If so, you probably know how damaging your procrastination has become.

Whatever reasons you identify, there is a good chance the reason is fear based.  It is worth acknowledging that unless you tackle it, the fear isn’t going away.  So hopefully, the next few tips will help.

Tip #2 – Break larger task into smaller ones

If the object of your procrastination is a large, overwhelming task, break the tasks into smaller ones, then set yourself a goal of completing at least one of these smaller tasks.  What this tip is trying to achieve is momentum.  If you can complete some smaller related tasks, momentum will hopefully propel you forward towards completion.  To add fuel to this process, set short timeframes for these smaller tasks eg. 10-30 minutes (whatever you think is achievable and appropriate), then challenge yourself to complete the task within this timeframe.  Tackle the easiest task first to reduce resistance.

Tip #3 – Recruit a Procrastination Buddy

If you procrastinate on a regular or recurring task, get a procrastination buddy.  Ask them to keep you accountable.  This works like a gym buddy.

Tip #4 – Use Affirmations

If you have been procrastinating for a long time, you may recognise the “devil” on your shoulder that talks you into procrastinating.  “It’s too hard”, “I’ll do it later”, “I’ll get to it after I finish something else”, “It’s not that important”.  This negative “self-talk” is very influential as it is usually repeated many times.  The repetition makes it believable and works like a charm.

So, to combat this, recognise it when it happens and consciously change the words when they occur i.e. let the “angel” on the other shoulder do some work.  “It’s too hard as it is but if I break it down…..” etc.  Make sure your positive affirmations outnumber the negative ones.  Try this – for every negative statement you make, craft five positive ones.

Tip #5 – Stop using labels

Most procrastinators label themselves as such.  Using this label sets you up for failure so stop using it yourself and don’t permit others to stick the label on you, well, at least not within earshot!

Check whether there are other self-limiting labels used in the areas that you procrastinate e.g. “I’m not good at finances” which keeps you from doing your budget.

Tip #6 – Push through anxiety

Even when you implement some of these strategies, you may still face discomfort and anxiety.  This is normal and instead of giving up, push through it.  When you feel anxiety welling, take several deep breaths, breathing out slowly.  Do this every time you feel anxiety and persist with the task at hand.

Procrastination – Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there

Tip #7 – Remove distractions

Ensure that your environment is optimised for success (success =  not procrastinating).  If you know that the TV or radio potentially distracts you from completing a task, then turn it off before you even start.  If you are distracted by noise, don’t test your procrastination resistance in a noisy office.  Find a quiet room that you can use.  Whatever your potential distractions, you probably know them better than anyone else, so remove them.  However, be careful not to allow “distraction removal” to become the cause of your procrastination!

Tip #8 – It doesn’t need to be perfect

Not all perfectionists procrastinate but perfectionism is very often used as an excuse for fear of failure.  In most cases, the task at hand doesn’t need to be perfect.  Perfection is a self-imposed requirement.  If you fall into this category, examine the consequences of completing the task to 80%, 90% or 95% and if the consequences are minimal, let it go.  This process is bound to be anxiety-laden so read Tip #6.

Tip #9 – Address health issues

This might seem like a strange tip for a procrastination article but this is close to home for me and therefore worth a mention.  Sometimes, lack of motivation looks like procrastination and sometimes lack of motivation has underlying health causes e.g. fatigue.  In my case, it is extreme low blood pressure which, untreated, keeps me tired all the time.  When you are tired, fatigued or depressed, very little energy is left to fight procrastination.  So, be aware of this as a possibility if none of the above tips seem to resonate, but as always take care not to use this as another excuse!

These tips should point you in the right direction but ultimately, if your desire to address your procrastination isn’t strong enough, you will be fighting a losing battle.  If there are any deeper issues that need to be addressed, don’t ignore them.

Do you have any procrastination-busting tips that you would like to share?

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