Procrastination is a common theme. It has featured throughout my life and is a theme raised by many coaching clients, most of whom lead successful lives. I wonder if procrastination is as negative as it sounds?
Do you do the following?
- Put things off
- Delay important tasks
- Find it hard to get things done
- Struggle with motivation to get on with the work even when you have tight deadlines
- Find more interesting and more enjoyable activities to do instead
If some of these sound familiar, you might be a procrastinator.
Procrastination can be stressful. You know you have things to do, yet can’t focus on doing them. As a result, you waste time and energy worrying about them and feel stressed and guilty about approaching or missed deadlines. Tasks pile up and everything becomes more daunting. You rush things at the last minute and as a result, your work may not be to the standard you want, which in turn leads to feelings of frustration, disappointment and reduced morale.
Why do we procrastinate?
If you find yourself procrastinating, take time to explore why you’re procrastinating. Only by doing this will you be able to solve the problem. Some possible causes include:
- Poor organisation skills.what’s getting in your way of living a productive and action-oriented life.
- You’re not sure what to do.
- You’re doing something which isn’t in your natural strengths zone.
- The work is boring or unpleasant.
- You fear failure.
- You can’t focus.
- You have a strong drive to do something else.
- Limiting beliefs about your ability / Imposter syndrome.
- Your strong intuition is telling you it doesn’t feel right.
- Maybe you just work best under pressure and enjoy working to a tight deadline.
How can you get going and move to action?
- Just get started. Commit to the task and start. Often you’ll realise that it’s not so difficult or unpleasant after all.
- Visualise completing the task and imagine how good it will feel to finish things ahead of schedule. Maybe give yourself an appropriate reward.
- Get organised. Make a to-do list. Break large projects into smaller steps. Prioritise your list with the most important projects. Note the deadlines and tick them off as you do them. It feels good to mark things as done.
- Identify most challenging tasks and do them when you have the most focus and energy to get them out of the way.
- Learn to focus. Many people have lost the ability to disconnect from distractions around them and focus on the task in hand. Try turning off your email and social media notifications, find a quiet space and commit to a period of focused work.
- Be kind to yourself and use supportive language. Self-talk such as “I should do”, “I have to”, etc. create additional stress and pressure. Instead, reframe these statements as “I choose to”, “I will” etc. It feels more empowering and encouraging.
- Practice self-care. In order to thrive and be productive, you must have a healthy foundation. Nutrition, hydration, exercise and sleep are the building blocks for energy, resilience and focus. Practice some self-compassion too.
- Get help. Do you need training to do a task or to get more organised, want someone to hold you accountable or a coach to challenge your limiting beliefs and help build your confidence?
- Delegate/outsource. Rather than struggle with doing tasks which are not using your natural strengths, is it possible to get some help? For example, hiring a bookkeeper to do the accounts you keep putting off is more efficient and less stressful.
- Listen to your intuition. What’s it trying to tell you? If you feel uncomfortable and resistant about taking action, explore your instinct further; where’s it coming from and why? Can you get more information to validate your intuition?
Can procrastination be a good thing?
Yes, sometimes procrastination can be a good thing. Consider trying to reframe procrastination as “acting just in time” or as a “planned delay”. Let go of the stress that seems to be associated with procrastination and instead think about the benefits:
- It will eventually spur you to action and make you highly productive when under pressure, even if it means working all night to meet a deadline.
- Sometimes, some of the tasks on your list will become redundant as situations change over time. You can enjoy just crossing them off your list.
- Slowing down, waiting to do things or make decisions until the last minute can be beneficial. It gives you more time to think and the latest information available to act on or base your decisions on.
- It helps you to identify the things you love doing vs the things you put off. Try to find a career which will enable you to do more of what you love and less of what you dislike.
Test out the strategies above to find if any are effective for you. Consider finding a coach to help you explore what’s getting in your way of living a productive and action-oriented life.
Alternatively, you could choose to embrace the fact you are a procrastinator, plan accordingly, keeping time free for focused working just before deadlines.
Whatever your choice, take the stress out of procrastination by acknowledging it exists, know it can be helpful, and manage it in a way that works for you.