My favourite meme that I have seen about procrastination is that it is ‘The art of ruining your life for no apparent reason!’ Whenever I say when I’m speaking to people about being organised it always raises a smile. It’s one of those statements that resonates with us all! But why do we procrastinate when we know it’s so unhelpful!? There are a number of reasons.
The Job Looks Too Big
If a task looks too big we are unlikely to have a single slot in out busy lives in which to undertake the task. If we can’t find a slot we put it off until we absolutely can’t put it off any longer and then we have to work late or pull an all-nighter. This is not a good approach! The secret is to break the task down into its constituent and smaller parts. The steps you will need to take to complete the big task. This makes it easier to slot each step into a pocket of time when we’re planning – allocating time to task. This means we chip away at the big task by doing each steps and this fuels motivation because we really feel then that we are getting somewhere.
The Job Looks Too Difficult
Sometimes we don’t have (or feel we have) the skills or the knowledge to do the task – or there’s ambiguity in the instructions. We put off asking for advice or acquiring the knowledge because we don’t want to look like we don’t know what we’re doing – then eventually – we look like we don’t know what we’re doing because the task didn’t get done! Always seek advice. That’s a much better strategy than putting the task off.
The thing we need to do is not causing us ‘imminence pressure’
“Oh that thing! That’s ages off yet!” Bet you’ve said that! We all have. And then all of sudden ‘ages off’ is tomorrow!
Planning brings the future into the present so we can do something with it and consider the enormity of the task at hand. We can then break it down into its parts and diary the parts. Sometimes we underestimate how long something will take – we do this a lot with big tasks the psychologists tell us – and then when we have to do it at the last minute we find we haven’t got enough time. Going through the process of breaking the task down helps us work out just how much time we actually need.
We don’t have what we need to get started
When this happens it’s usually because we’ve not planned effectively. The point at which you set about starting the task is not the time to make sure you have everything. You need to plan and organise so that you have what you need available to you at the point in time set aside to do the task.
You can’t plan and do at the same time – they require different sets of mental skills – time spent in planning is paid back when we get to the doing.
Tim S Grover in his book Relentless says this that seems to resonate with peopl…… Do the work. Every day you have to do something you don’t want to do. Every day. Challenge yourself to be uncomfortable, push past the apathy and laziness and fear. Otherwise, the next day you’re going to have two things you don’t want to do, then three and four and five, and pretty soon, you can’t even get back to the first thing. And then all you can do is beat yourself up for the mess you’ve created, and now you’ve got a mental barrier to go along with the physical barriers.
Those who can achieve flow procrastinate less
Those who plan overcome procrastination. They have less ‘Boundary Moments’ – the point at which a decision is required. You’ve made the decisions in advance so can get to the doing of the next task without thinking ‘what next’. The less obstacles we put in our way – the fewer times we have to make a decision about what to do next – the less likely we are to procrastinate.