There are times when we don’t want to work but know that we have to.
It happens to everyone. That pile of papers that keeps on increasing, several unanswered emails that we know we need to read and reply to, or perhaps a project that we have earmarked for the new year but have never started doing. Procrastination does not mean that we’re lazy. It’s just that we never seem to run out of reasons to postpone things that we’ve set to do.
Procrastination may be harmless if we snap out of it quick. However, it can apparently hold us back from accomplishing our plans and goals if we let it rule our mind for long. What we’re about to tell you has not been sugar-coated, but if you’re guilty of procrastinating and want to change your ways, then read on. By understanding and adopting these three practical strategies, you can turn your life around and bid your goodbyes to procrastination and say hello to productivity.
Procrastination may be harmless if we snap out of it quick. However, it can clearly hold us back from accomplishing our plans and goals if we let it rule our mind for long.
Have a prevention focus.
One reason why you may hesitate to take action is that at the back of your mind, you feel that you will fail. For most of us, we look at a task as something that will give us a sense of achievement when we complete it. For instance, working on a presentation for a big client is a task that may give you excitement because your company might just snag the deal because of your presentation.
Psychologists term this as promotion focus, where your motivation to do a task comes from the thought of gaining something – like praise, approval, or perhaps a raise. But what if you also have doubts about doing the task because you’re scared that if the client doesn’t like what you’ll present, then there wouldn’t be any deal? It is where prevention focus comes in.
If you adopt this mentality, then psychologists believe that you would be more driven to do the task because you wouldn’t want to suffer a loss (lost client, disappointed boss, or postponed pay raise). Research has revealed that when you are more focused on avoiding a loss than on accomplishing something, then your instinctive reaction would be to act right away. The more anxiety you experience about preventing a possible loss, the faster you are to doing the work which you would normally postpone.
Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder.” Mason Cooley
Trash your “I-don’t-feel-like-doing-it” attitude.
Did you ever wake up in the morning and the weather outside was not so great, so you told yourself, “I really don’t feel like doing that project today. Maybe tomorrow or when the weather is better.” Whenever we’re feeling lazy to the bones, that’s the time when we also put off what we have to do.
In situations like these, we can’t seem to get ourselves in the mood to do things, though no one is getting in the way. Now think about this for a moment: without conscious thought on our part, we apparently have this notion that we need to FEEL that we WANT to act to be effective and motivated. We should feel EAGER to do what we’re supposed to do, and there’s nothing like a great motivation or a commitment to do something. But when you think about it, you don’t need any of those to start taking action. Here’s something to shake you: You don’t need to feel like doing it for you to do it. Nothing or no one is stopping you.
Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin.” – Victor Kiam
Resort to an “If-then planning.”
Another excuse for procrastinating is that you find the task difficult, tiring, ugly, or even boring. More often than not, we address this concern by telling ourselves that we’ll try to work on it sooner next time. But then again, if we had the willingness to do it in the first place, we would never have procrastinated.
Accept the fact that most of us have limited willpower, and that we may not always be ready to face the challenge of doing difficult, tiring, ugly, and boring tasks. The solution to this is the use of if-then planning to get the work done. It involves putting a timeline and frame of reference that sets a condition that you have to fulfill lest you fail to do the task. It’s basically planning what you’re about to do, when you’re doing it, and where.
For example, when you have this plan “If it is Monday morning, then I will start working on my presentation,” you are reducing the demands otherwise placed on your willpower to “do the presentation.” By framing it the “if-then” way, you’re assuring yourself that you’ve made the right choice ahead of the critical moment (e.g. I have to do it now). Hundreds of studies show that the if-then planning has raised productivity and goal achievement rates by an average of 200-300%.
Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.” ― Mark Twain
A final piece of advice
The strategies you’ve just come across may not be what you’re expecting – nothing that speaks only of positive things and other motivating words. However, these tips do work. Keep an open mind, and soon enough, you’ll see that these techniques will help you dismiss procrastination altogether.