Have you ever found yourself consistently putting off something you need to do, even though you knew that by waiting until the last minute, you were doing yourself, your colleagues or your loved ones a disservice?
Don’t worry — you’re not alone.
We’re generally pretty good at rationalization, and this is especially true when it comes to procrastination. This phenomenon, known as a “procrastination trap,” is simply what happens when you add a contingency to any action meant to propel you forward.
For example, take a look at the following statements:
“I’m going to lose weight as soon as my life isn’t so hectic.”
“I’m going to write that novel as soon as I find my inspiration.”
“I’m going to apply for a new job as soon as I learn a new skill.”
“I’m going to assess how I can help my employees be more productive as soon as I read that book on leadership.”
Do you see what happened there? In these statements, all of the desired actions were put on hold. Why? Because they depended on a secondary factor that simply wasn’t likely to happen anytime soon.
When we have what we consider a valid reason for not starting a project or goal, it allows us to put it off for that much longer. It’s a common trick our minds play on ourselves. Why? Because it “gives us permission” to keep procrastinating.
Of course, if you’re working on earning your MBA and you want to wait to apply for a new job until your degree is hanging on your wall, that makes sense. But if you’re just putting off the inevitable or running from reality, it’s time to wake up and take action.
“Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy.” – Wayne Gretzky
Most of us procrastinate for one of three basic reasons:
It’s natural to want to do the things we like first, and avoid doing the things we find unpleasant.
Do you need to let an employee go who is consistently under-performing but is a nice person? And you keep telling yourself you’ll have the dreaded conversation next week, only to have each week roll by?
Or maybe you need to clean out the garage, but you keep putting it off and now your car just got damaged in a hail storm because it wouldn’t fit in the garage?
If you’re procrastinating because you find the task unpleasant, I promise you, if you take care of it sooner than later, you’ll feel better and free up your attention to focus on other important things.
You might also find that once you actually get into the task, it might not be as unpleasant as you feared.
If you feel like you have so much to do that you don’t even know which task to tackle first — so you don’t start any — you may be overwhelmed. Surprisingly, people who are perfectionists fall into this trap because they fear they won’t have the skills to do the job well.
If you feel overwhelmed, try to break down tasks into smaller chunks. Then prioritize — determine which tasks you have to do versus which tasks you should do. Also determine which ones are truly important and send the unimportant ones to the bottom of your list.
Some of us are just plain disorganized so it’s difficult to focus on what needs to be done.
If you have sticky notes all over your desk, have two or three calendars in different places or save all of your documents into the same folder on your computer so now you can’t find the ones you need, it’s time to get organized!
Start by consolidating your calendars into one — whether it’s a hard copy planner or a calendar on your smartphone, put everything — all of your appointments, tasks, reminders, etc. into that one calendar.
You also need to create a prioritized to-do list that includes the approximate amount of time it will take to complete each task.
Remember the whole “fight or flight” pattern which is programmed into our DNA? By finding reasons to put off achieving our goals, we are essentially running away.
I guarantee you — if you turn around and decide to “fight” for your goals and overcome your tendency to procrastinate, you’ll achieve anything you set your mind to.
It’s a simple concept, but it’s one that will work. Can’t start a novel because you have writer’s block? Fight back by writing something — a page, a chapter, an outline — and just see where it leads you.
Can’t start a big work project because you’re not sure how to proceed? Fight back by brainstorming or doing research. You’ll likely find little gems in your train of thought that can lead to big ideas.
If your organization is struggling to achieve the results you want, WINology Performance Group can help. We will show your members how to take action instead of failing to recognize opportunities or fearing challenges. We will teach your team how to become champions. Learn more by visiting our speaking and training pages!
Can you think of a time when you or members of your organization faced a challenge head on? Let us know in the comments section below!
Image attribution: https://www.flickr.com/photos/22244945@N00/
Image quote attribution: Victor Kiam, American businessman