Procrastination: the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished by a certain deadline.
An old saying holds that whatever’s worth doing is worth doing well. The evil cousin of that saying holds that one should never do today what can be put off until tomorrow.
Procrastination is seductive. You sit down at your computer, start a task, then take a break. When you come back – hey, let’s check the latest scores. Or spend just a few minutes watching Paul McCartney’s ‘Carpool Karaoke’ … and on it goes from there.
It takes skill and discipline to stay on task. Consistent practice of these 10 attributes will help you resist the siren song of procrastination:
- Get rid of excuses: Making a task bigger than it is – and then using the inflated magnitude of that task as an excuse to avoid it – is a common problem. Remind yourself that you are fully capable of doing a good job at the task – because you are.
- Success starts with you: Success is completion. Procrastinators tend to focus not on the whole task, but on short-term, intermediate results. Never forget the consequences (good or bad) of avoidance and postponement. Focus on the short term is a hindrance to greater success. Finishing a task in a timely manner reduces stress and grows a sense of success and accomplishment.
- Be realistic: In other words, know yourself. Look for ways to make a big task easier – if a project is due in the morning and you’re not at your best in the morning, factor that in. Don’t simply get up an hour early and expect to get the task done. Be realistic with your time frame and act accordingly.
- Don’t put it off: Why do we push projects to the 11th hour – and sometimes the back half of that 11th hour? Fear. In his Handbook on Becoming a True Professional, author Candido Segarra writes that the main reasons we procrastinate are, in no particular order, lack of knowledge about how to approach a task, insecurity (which gives rise to a sense of incompetence) and perfectionism. The thing is, though, that there’s no such thing as perfect – seeking perfection simply delays work and ends in a bad result.
- Replace “must do” with “will do”: Feeling a task is a duty will leave you feeling as though you’re working under your very own black cloud. Instead, treat a task as a challenge – and welcome it with a “will-do” attitude. You might be surprised to feel the effects on your motivation. Taking control of the task keeps the task from taking control of you.
- Reward yourself: Rather than having someone else dangle a carrot in front of you, dangle your own carrot – tell yourself you’ll go shopping or out with friends once the task is complete. Research shows that the prospect of reward motivates individuals to get things done.
- Self-talk: Just tell yourself you’re going to finish the task ahead of schedule. Period. It sounds simple, but the odds are that that’s what will happen. That said, there’ll be times you just don’t have the gear you need – and that’s when your solidly positive self-talk can prove the difference.
- Forgive yourself: This is big. Punishing yourself for procrastinating will lead directly to self-doubt and … more procrastination. If you put a task off to the last minute, do the best you can to get it done and demand better of yourself next time out. Forgive yourself and move forward.
- Manage your environment. Remember the ‘Carpool Karaoke’ example? Distraction equals procrastination. If you’re susceptible in that regard, try to find a plain space where you’re less likely to be sidetracked.
- One thing at a time: Don’t try to do multiple tasks at the same time; chances are you might make one deadline but miss the others – and it’s likely that none of the tasks will have gotten your very best effort. Our brains can handle a grand total of one task at a time before it diminishes the productivity of what you’re doing. Completing assignments one after the other is the way to go.