chart depicting why we think we procrastinate vs reality

[Source: The real reasons you procrastinate at work – Work Life by Atlassian]

Are you guilty of procrastination? And getting yelled at by clients/family/friends for being tardy or incompetent. Well, almost all of us are I guess. All these years I thought I was just being lazy or did not know where to start and so was procrastination. In fact, many a times we miss/nearly miss the deadline, and have to face consequences be it on the work front or personal. But guess what, we can’t help it!

When digging around, I discovered there is more to procrastination than just being lazy or getting distracted. It goes way deeper. All the way into our mind and how it works.

I read a definition for Procrastination – It is the act of delaying or putting off tasks until the last minute, or past their deadline. Some researchers define procrastination as a “form of self-regulation failure characterized by the irrational delay of tasks despite potentially negative consequences.”

Subsequently, I had come across this thread on twitter sometime back on this topic by Omar Bazza, a therapist whose tweets make way too much sense!

I wake up, I make a list of things to be done on that day [both personal and work] and then I dilly dally, I watch random videos, clean the room, my table, take on some trivial tasks, go out, read a book and get around to the list only when the day is nearly done or when I know the deadline is looming large. In fact, there have been times when I have sent an email to the client with some cooked up excuse for delay. I do feel guilty, but then that is what I do. Well, eventually I do get around to completing the tasks but much much later than what was planned. I also have a mind that is constantly reminding me of the pending tasks, which I ignore or shove aside with some lie or excuse. It gets to a point where the excuses become a reality in our heads and we start living in that parallel world, ignoring the reality.

Over the years, my instances of procrastination has come down, but there are moments when I do delay, but luckily these days not as much as before. I do get around to taking action before the day is done!

I have asked about procrastination among people I interact with and almost 80% of them have accepted to having done it more than just once, some say they struggle on a daily basis. One guy said he has lost projects cos the client stated his delay in delivery as a major issue. Now, even though he needs work, and the money, he just can’t get around to this and shake things up a bit.

What kind of a procrastinator are you?.. yes, there are three types.. 

  • The Avoider – The one who gets bored easy, and therefore puts off doing things. It could be due to being overwhelmed, or easily distracted with something else or dealing with anxiety.  They go through a lot of stress from this.

    Small steps to overcome the issue –

    • Break the task into smaller bits and work on them one by one.
    • Find someone who can be with you and encourage you to complete the task.
    • Spend a few minutes reflecting on why the task isn’t interesting and tell yourself why you need to complete it.
  • The Optimist – The confidence soul who thinks a task isn’t going to take too long and you can complete it in no time therefore you put it off to the last minute.

    Small steps to overcome the issue –

    • Set alerts with breaks in between to help you pace yourself
    • Create doable lists and attack them one by one.
    • Switch off any distractions for that period of time and focus on the task on hand – going out to complete an errand, or work related tasks.
    • Create a schedule in your calendar and start with the most difficult one working your way towards the easiest which will help you finish on a HIGH note.
  • The Pleasure Seeker – The “I will do it only when I feel like it” person who makes life difficult for others when working in a team, and does things for the heck of it and not cos they have to!

    Small steps to overcome the issue –

    • Reward yourself with a break or a treat when you complete 1 task.
    • Keep reiterating the benefits of completing what has been assigned to you.
    • Be honest with yourself, you might never get into the right frame of mind or mood but you do need to go ahead finish the tasks and get it off your plate.
    • Find a spot that works for you, or get yourself a drink if that will help you plough through the list.

A post I came across on the internet says –
1.Procrastination is a symptom of emotional discomfort, not a sign of laziness.
2.Regardless of the type of discomfort, procrastination is your brain’s way of telling you there’s something missing – something you need in order to complete the task.
3.Identifying the type of discomfort you’re experiencing often reveals a way to address it, and in so doing, remove your desire to keep putting the task off. (Thanks, procrastination!)
[Source: The real reasons you procrastinate at work – Work Life by Atlassian]

What I’ve realised works for me is to set realistic goals for the day, and only make the top 3 as priority. Also, instead of saying I will do 20 things today, say you will do 1,2,3 tasks ! We are all humans and there is only so much we can focus on.

These days with distractions everywhere, it is necessary to set your priorities in stone and keep them in your mind when starting the day. It could be money, could be a personal achievement, or doing something for someone else.. Whatever it is, start small, baby steps and keep going till you reach the finish line. Sometimes, a good word from a colleague, boss, or family might be the motivation you need, so look forward to that when you start your tasks.

Do share what tips and tricks you use to beat procrastination…

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