What is Procrastination?
Procrastination is where we put off or avoid doing something that needs to be done. we can both mindfully procrastinate (knowing that we are procrastinating) or do this subconsciously (procrastinating without realising it). Either way, we want to show you how to stop procrastinating and get things done by teaching you how to overcome procrastination.
As Edward Young states above, “procrastination is the thief of time”. How very true a statement this is because when we are procrastinating we are avoiding completing a task we know we should be doing and simply wasting time. Time is eating away towards a deadline or productivity levels severely drop and this can cause even more negative feelings within. You see, procrastination normally stems from feelings we have towards the task at hand or the outcomes that will lead from completing that task. So let’s delve a little deeper into what causes us to procrastinate and how we can start to overcome this.
Procrastination – Avoiding the Task
This is normally something we know needs completed, but we will do many other things rather than get the task in hand completed. Mostly we talk about procrastinating when it comes to studying or completing areas of our workload but it can mean putting off anything. Things such as cleaning, making appointments or making contact with someone even.
In this article, I am going to talk more about procrastinating in terms of our work or learning new skills to progress in the task at hand such as:
- Waiting until just before the deadline until you to complete your work.
- Not reading or researching for assignments or leaving written work until the very last minute.
- Not writing your blog post or publishing new content for your site in a timely manner.
- Not answering or making important calls that could lead to more business.
All of the above can be damaging to your business if allowed to go on for too long. For our businesses to be successful we must overcome the business of procrastination and learn how to become more productive and effective in getting things done. There will always be things or areas in our business that we don’t like doing but, ultimately they need to get done in order for you to grow and succeed in your chosen area.
So if this is you, and believe me we all procrastinate at some point or another, please continue reading.
Why Do We Procrastinate?
People procrastinate for many different reasons. In fact, some people may not even know what these reasons are until they really stop and think about it. Do you know why you procrastinate?
I used to procrastinate a lot! I was aware that I was constantly putting off work I should be doing or only completing tasks that I knew I was good at. The times where I procrastinated the most was when I had papers due in at university. I now understand that the cause for this was fear – fear of failure. This is often the most common cause for procrastination and that is where we start as we look at our top 3 reasons for procrastination.
We are going to look at the 3 most common reasons before we look at steps we can take to put a STOP to it and GET THINGS DONE!
Fear is a very common reason why we procrastinate and fear comes in many forms. These fears may be quite prevalent or they may be deep-rooted subconscious fears that you are not fully aware of.
Fear of failure is a very common reason for procrastinating and the one I struggled with the most when I spoke above about handing in uni work. Nobody likes to fail but in reality, you are bound to fail at somethings in life. Nobody goes through life accomplishing everything they do. At least not the first time anyway. See many of those who you see succeeding in life have probably faced failure several times but have worked at overcoming this failure and getting it right to be where they are now.
Fear of what others think. You may think if you put yourself or your work out there no one is going to like it or read it. Fear of unknown reactions from others, whether it be family, friends, colleagues or even strangers. We can’t help but fear what others think, especially now with everyone being online competing for likes and attention on social media. Putting your work out there can be really scary but it can also be really rewarding. You have to learn to have confidence in yourself, not everyone is going to like you, your work, your business, what you say etc. But, that is life, you are never going to please everyone!
Fear of the unknown is also a common reason. Often when starting out in a new venture or business procrastination through fear of the unknown is at its highest. This is often because we don’t know where things are heading and it can be scary. We often dream of becoming successful, but the thought of being successful can also trigger feelings of fear due to the unknown ways it can change or impact your life. Relationships with people may change, you may move home, you will meet new people and maybe form new friendships, will this impact on your current friendships? You may even outgrow some friendships and that can be scary when these friends are currently a big part of your life.
Your workload can be overwhelming at times and you struggle at knowing where to start. Do you often have a long list of things to do? Does that list seem to go on and on? Do you open up your emails only to dread going through them as there seem to be hundreds to read?
When we look at our workload as a whole it can very often seem like a daunting task. You may be looking at a week’s worth of work or maybe more, that is a lot to get through. But, once we start to break it down we see how easy it can be to start and complete tasks.
This is a very common problem but there are several ways that you can actually make your workload appear lighter or even lessen the load in itself. Some of this ties in with the next section.
Failure to Plan or Poor Planning
Do you plan out your work or tasks? Is this planning effective? Or do you use planning your work as a way of procrastinating? Yes, people really do use planning their workload as a way of putting it off. I have known people to spend a whole day planning a week’s worth of work. A task that should have taken 30 minutes to an hour tops. And often, they have become so bogged down in planning when it comes to executing the plan it seems to be ineffective.
Another strange behaviour with planning is that a plan can be drawn up and you start to follow it but then suddenly you get an email with a piece of training or some promise of making your life a little easier and the next thing you know you are away following that and being distracted or worse still you just put it right into that plan in front of what REALLY needs to be done. People do this as they know it is easier than the tasks they should be doing and by slotting it into that plan they will easily be able to tick it off as complete. Thus, they are tricking themselves into believing they are still following the original plan.
Failure to plan or poor planning can lead to feeling unorganised, feelings of anxiousness around and about your work or sticking to only doing the easy tasks and not tackling the bigger ones. These bigger tasks being the ones that could really move you and your business along and make a difference.
There are many more reasons for procrastination but these 3 are normally at the top of the list so these are the three I am focussing on.
How to Stop Procrastinating and Get Things Done
There are many steps you can take to stop yourself procrastinating and feeling overwhelmed by everything.
Overcoming the Fear
Everyone suffers from fear at one time or another and if you are starting a new business or venture this is when fear can be at its highest.
Most of the time if we take a little time to put what we fear into context it can be enough to overcome it. Most of the time starting in business the ego or the wallet getting bruised is the worst that can happen. Even the wallet getting bruised, this will only happen if you take too many risks and spend money before you are ready or when you don’t fully understand what you are doing.
You are not going to die or get physically hurt by launching products, writing a blog post or any other aspect of a new business. What you are going to do however is learn and build a greater knowledge base of some things, grow as a person and increase in confidence as you go.
Yes, you may have the odd setback but overall you are going to be making positive steps in your life. The worst that can happen is that you fail, then, you can get back up and start again if you wish and learn from your mistakes. Each failing should teach you something so this, in my eyes is still positive.
The best that can happen is that you have a thriving business that you can proud of and that is going to be a big and positive aspect of you and your life.
Remember the only to fear is fear. Everyone feels it but unless it is a matter of life and death it is not important.
We can often become overwhelmed with our workload and wonder where we are going to start. The best thing to do here is to list EVERYTHING you need to get done then break it down into several smaller lists. Learn to prioritize your work too. If you can give things priority and plan them to the start of your day of the week it will take some of the load off as your day or week progresses.
Complete the more difficult tasks at the start. Whether this is the start of your day or the start of the week. These are often more daunting tasks and by getting them out of the way sooner it will free up your mind and limit the amount of time you are worrying or feeling anxious about tackling them. Completing them first will allow you to concentrate FULLY on all your other tasks.
Your workload and planning can pretty much go hand in hand at times depending on how you work. So, once you complete your lists, as above, spend time planning your day or week around this. Another good thing to look at in this section is emails as often we see emails as part of our workload and they can often mess up our planning if we chose to let them,
One of the first things you should do is spend some time sorting through your emails. Unsubscribe from any emails you do not open or don’t read. This will reduce the time spent deleting mail you don’t need there.
Never open your emails at the start of the day or before you start working. The main reason for this is that often you will get side-tracked by their content and go off looking at other things rather than getting started on your work. This is a way of subconsciously procrastinating by thinking you are doing something productive, but this is not going to make you money!
Instead, leave your emails till after lunch if you can. By this time you will have completed a few of your tasks for the day and will be feeling much better about what you have accomplished and hopefully, be wanting to push on and complete your plan for that day. When you feel like this you are less likely to become sidetracked by emails. Delete the ones you have read or are not relevant and make a list of any you wish to revisit. You can do this at the end of the day or once you have completed everything.
If you still feel you are getting sidetracked or going off-piste with emails opening them at lunchtime wait till you are finished your work for the day before looking at them.
If you are just starting out in business online or for yourself try not to be signing up to any new trend or money-making scheme that comes along. If you are starting an online business spend your time mastering one thing at a time. All too often people are attracted to all the new “make money online” schemes and want to try them all. This can also be known as “shiny object syndrome”. This tends to lead to what some term as “analysis paralysis”, where you are taking on so much information it confuses and overwhelms you. By not signing up for every new thing that comes along you will be more able to focus on building your own business.
Planning is a great tool when done correctly and it is something that you will get better at doing over time. You will learn what tasks are the most important or valuable to your business and give them a priority.
You will also learn a lot about yourself as you start working on your own. You may at first plan to research while you write then discover that you get confused by all the information. So you will need to give yourself time to research before you write. You may also think you will complete tasks quicker than you actually do. DO NOT WORRY! I think we have been all guilty of this at some point or another. Keep a note of the time it takes to complete certain tasks and use this information when planning. It is always better to allow a little extra time for each task than to be caught chasing your tail so to speak. When you complete tasks quicker than you thought, use that time to clear your head before transitioning into the next task. You may find you have a little spare time at the end of the day so why not put it to good use and analyse how your day went and why and use this information when next planning.
At first, maybe plan one or two days’ work at a time then as you get used to how you perform and the timescales in which you can complete tasks you can switch to doing this weekly. Try not to plan too far ahead as there will often be things that come up that can interfere with plans. Doing this weekly minimizes the risk of this and when things do come up in advance you can then incorporate them into your future plans.
Just always remember to take a little 5 minutes to re-evaluate your planning on a regular basis. This helps you from either becoming overwhelmed and feeling like a failure if you do not finish on time or it will allow you to up your workload as you become more efficient at what you do. Remember to keep a track of time and tasks as you first start to work with a plan. Evaluate what works for you and what doesn’t, what you enjoy doing and what you don’t, what you are good at and what you are not. All these little notes will help you to plan better in the future and get the most out of your time.
One Step at a Time
Remember slow and steady wins the race!
Once you have learned what makes you procrastinate you can take action to stop procrastinating and get things done.
At first, your head may be spinning by all you need to get done. But by completing one task at a time you will get there. Try to always focus on one thing at a time and complete that fully before moving on to your next task.
By giving full attention to each task it will save confusion and once complete will give you a feeling of accomplishment and confidence to tackle your next task.
Your confidence will grow with each new task you complete. Be mindful though to not get ahead of yourself and start cutting corners as this will only set you back eventually. Complete each task to the best of your ability and in full before moving on.
Take a little break between each task and give yourself a little reward. Have a stretch, a cuppa, a pat on the back even. Take this time to shift your mind from the task you have just completed to the task you are just going to start.
You may even want to tackle each task in small bursts. Set yourself a time of 15 or 20 minutes. Set a timer and just get your head down for that amount of time and see what you can get done. It is amazing what you can get done in such small bursts. In 15 or 20 minutes you can often write half a blog post, make several phone calls, resulting in a lot of research materials being read or all your social media shares being updated.
Be realistic with your workload and time, take it one step at a time, just start and above all DO NOT PROCRASTINATE any longer.
What are you waiting for? Now go start, remember slow and steady wins the race. One step at a time, just get started, the rest will start to fall into place!