As I’ve mentioned before, procrastination isn’t all bad. It truly does depend on what you do with it. However, there are some areas of our lives in which procrastination can really kill you goals, ambition, and professional reputation. In order to combat this tendency, you need to discover the root cause of your procrastination.
Are You a Scaredy Cat?
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why we procrastinate is the fear we have of something. Whether it’s confronting a disgruntled customer or avoiding the fight with our colleague, our fear of the confrontation causes us to avoid it altogether. An effective way of dealing with this problem is to map out all of the possible outcomes, and determine what you would do if the worst thing happened. After doing this, proceed with the hard task anyway. Half the time, the outcome won’t be half as bad as we think. Even if the situation doesn’t work in your favor, at least you’ve developed a plan for the worst outcome.
Another source of procrastination is overwhelm. You’re procrastinating on projects because you’ve taken on too much. Instead of delegating tasks or simply declining another project, you take on one more task when your plate is already too full. Maybe you’re managing to keep up with your professional obligations, but your house is a mess because you’re too exhausted to clean. In this case, the true cause of procrastination isn’t laziness, its being overwhelmed. Consider what tasks/projects are truly necessary and what can be delegated. If you can afford it, consider hiring help for delegated tasks like housekeepers, nannies, and virtual assistants. The mental break will allow you to be more focused and procrastinate less in your professional life.
Investing in the Future
Another source of unproductive behavior and procrastination is the overemphasis on immediate gratification and benefit. Researchers Todd Rodgers & Max Bazerman found that teaching respondents to focus on the long-term benefits of short-term actions, removing distractions, and increasing “threats” to procrastination, they will make more choices that will engender long-term benefits. Thus, applying negative traits to procrastination makes you less likely to commit it. Hence the popularity of accountability groups, the DietBet app, and closed off work spaces.
Procrastination doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We procrastinate because we have real emotions. Avoiding conflicts, putting off unpleasant tasks, or taking on project to help a friend is behavior that offers an immediate reward. It makes you look nice and relieves your overburdened mind. However, it robs you of much-needed time to build your own goals or can ruin your reputation when you can’t follow through.
How To Work Through Your Emotionally Based Procrastination
- Find an accountability partner, group, or mastermind to report to weekly. Publicly announcing goals and having others that remind you of them places positive peer pressure on you to complete your tasks.
- Release yourself from distractions. Don’t try to do multiple things at one time. Research says our minds don’t successfully multitask. So shut off your I-Tunes when you’re working on the annual report!
- Add a punitive element. Charge yourself $10 for missing a deadline. Use an app that subtracts money for failing to finish a goal or task (DietBet, Pact, etc)While this may seem masochistic, it does work. Knowing that procrastination will cost you money, time, and the possible respect of a friend is usually enough to start turning behavior around.
What other techniques have you found to help with emotional procrastination?