Overcoming procrastination begins with realizing that you’re doing it and WHY you’re doing it. Are you someone who waits until the last minute to do everything? Maybe you feel like the pressure of a tight deadline helps you perform better or produce better results? Once you start planning ahead and spending your time appropriately you will see this definitely isn't the case.
Procrastination goes beyond self-control and it does not equal laziness. Research shows that procrastination can be a way we cope with challenging emotions or moods. Boredom, anxiety, frustration, resentment, self-doubt are just a few of the contributors. For example, If you find a task boring you will put it off. If going to the doctor gives you anxiety you will put off making an appointment. If you get frustrated in the middle of a project you might stop working on it. If you’re assigned a task that you don’t think falls in your job description which causes underlying resentment, you will put it off. If you’re unsure of your abilities or capabilities when it comes to accomplishing something, you put it off. And this list could go on. The next time you find yourself putting something off, stop and ask yourself WHY!
Procrastination can lead to a number of consequences. One of the most obvious consequences is poor results. Waiting until the last minute leaves you with little time for quality outcomes. Another consequence of procrastination is poor decision making. Having limited time can lead to making rushed or emotionally charged choices that you might not make if you were calm and had more time to think things through. Poor decision making leads directly to another negative effect of procrastination and that’s damage to your reputation. If you’re known for procrastinating, leading to rushed decisions or lack luster results then people will have a hard time depending on you. This is like a domino effect that leads to missed opportunities and can even hurt your self esteem.
Another consequence of procrastination is that it can sometimes cause you even more work. For example, if you don’t have a dishwasher doing your dishes once a day is 20 minute chore but putting it off until the end of the week turns it into a 2 hour chore. The same goes with office filing. If you file your paperwork every day, it’s easier to keep organized and filing takes a lot less time than if you were to wait and tackle a big pile at the end of the week.
Procrastination directly affects your health as well. It especially affects those procrastinators who continuously push off important doctor appointments or exams. Procrastinating also induces stress and increases frustration (aka raising your blood pressure) if something comes up or things don’t go right when you’re on a tight deadline.
If you’re guilty of procrastination, there’s no reason to beat yourself up about it. You’re definitely not alone. There are several simple ways to help yourself break the cycle. First things first, forget about your mood. The odds that you find yourself ready and “in the mood” to tackle all your responsibilities is rare. If you find yourself in a funk or dreading an upcoming task remind yourself that it’s very unlikely that you’re going to be in the mood to accomplish that task tomorrow or the next day. The option with the least amount of stress is just getting it done and out of the way.
Beyond your mood and mindset it’s all about proper planning and prioritizing. There are tools like The Covey Time Management Matrix that can help you with this. If you find yourself putting one thing off for another the matrix will help you determine what you should be working on next instead of letting your feelings or mood decide. Using time blocks or setting aside specific time in your schedule is also helpful. If you have a tendency to push off things that don’t have a due date try giving yourself hard deadlines.
Successful time management is a must if you want to prevent procrastination. That starts with being organized and having clear steps to accomplish what you need to do. This includes having a well thought out daily to-do list. An effective and organized to-do list will help you prioritize your tasks and prevent you from pushing off tasks for other tasks you find more enjoyable or think are easier to complete. Having a clear set of goals or tasks to accomplish each day will keep you from becoming overwhelmed, one of the root causes of procrastination.
Of course what works for one person may not work exactly the same for you. It’s important to find your own productivity rhythm and effective ways to prevent procrastination.