Procrastination: a guide for those who tend to put thing off…

This sophisticated word has long become a part of our everyday life if not vocabulary. But even those unfamiliar with the word itself procrastinate intensely every single day… 🙂 So let’s discuss this unalienable attribute of modern life – procrastination and see if there are ways to deal with it.


What is it anyway?

I did not misspeak when I referred to procrastination as an unalienable attribute of modern time. After all, this phenomenon did flourish during our technology-dominated era. And now you will understand why.

What is procrastination? This word simply means putting things off indefinitely. Undoubtedly, people have been afflicted with it for quite some time (hence the numerous quotes and sayings, like “never put off until tomorrow what you can do today”), but it’s in our hectic information-driven century that this problem became particularly acute. Excessive volumes of information are to blame here: we have to digest it all whether we want to or not. Many of us, unfortunately, are already incapable of surviving otherwise anymore.

This overwhelming excess of information results in a multitude of little tasks and errands that take our time but bear no practical importance, as their significance is nearing zero. What am I talking about? E-mails, social networks, cell phone… Notifications and text messages  scatter our attention and distract us from the priority task at hand (often not one we are particularly looking forward to) – a project, a  report, an important event.

By dealing with the easy little tasks we satisfactorily register our work efficiency and productivity, unavoidably lying to ourselves. At the same time, the truly important but difficult task we keep putting off again and again. As a result, our put-offs remain undealt with, so we end up in an endless cycle of futile hassle. So is there anything to be done? Is it all really so sad and hopeless?

Time management to the rescue!

There is certainly hope for you yet, as the main reason for procrastination lies in our emotions rather than improper planning. Often we do not feel like getting down to the important task because we are just not too eager to rather than because we have no time for it. For some reason we just wouldn’t get down to the task: too difficult, too boring, too unpleasant, scary etc. So, we are gladly looking for excuses, avoiding the important project. As you see time management has absolutely nothing to do with it!


So what are the real reasons for procrastination?

Inability to set clear goals

As long as you have no idea in which direction to head, walking makes no sense. This is fairly obvious. Without having clearly set goals in front of you procrastination can continue for a very long time. And there is really no point in trying to blame your resisting self. First outline the range of tasks to be solved and only then blame your own laziness. We will talk separately about how to learn to tell true goals from false ones, as well as how to set clear goals.

Desire to be perfect

Perfectionism ruined more men than just one. And it’s not just about the desire to follow through and make it perfect, rather than waiting for the perfect conditions to begin doing anything at all. 🙂 A perfectionist needs to learn two axioms: “well” is good enough” and “you need to be able to work in any conditions and do the best you can with whatever you have”.


Inability to  allocate your effort

Probably not too many of us are unfamiliar with the concept of working ourselves to the ground. Unfortunately, there is no other way to do it if the deadline is just around the corner. After this kind of “shock work” anyone inevitably needs a break. And one day will not suffice.  Over the period of much-needed rest new important tasks will stack up putting you  under an enormous time pressure all over again. How to break the vicious circle? It’s really simple. You need to be able to allocate your resources and take breaks to avoid exhausting yourself. Try working at your full capacity during half an hour, then take a five-minute break. Another obvious thing to do is to get yourself a scheduler where you can write down all important tasks and deadlines. Nimbus Note is a great tool for that.

Constantly distracting to useless things

How many times do you check e-mail while working (or pretending to be working)?. Maybe you are “used” to doing something with a TV in the background? Does it help you think or work more easily? Or would you say that text messages and beeping notifications letting you know you received a new PM on a social network are not distracting? Enough lying to yourself! If you work – then work, but without phones, internet, TV, game consoles and so on. Just dedicate 30 minutes to nothing but work, the world is not going to end in this time.

A very large task

As a rule, something large scale is intimidating. If you are looking at a very large project, just break it up into smaller pieces. Otherwise you will be intimidated by its size and will not be able to begin working on it. Instead, you will be procrastinating every step of the way. When you complete one part of the project at a time, you will surely succeed as a result.

How to deal with procrastination?

Surely, you have gotten some advice and ideas from the text above. Eliminating the causes will expectedly help you defeat procrastination. But we will still add a few recommendations.

Find the reason for your procrastination. Admit to yourself that you are afraid of the defeat or really can’t stomach the customer or maybe you are not completely clear on the result you are supposed to achieve. By realizing the underlying reason, speaking through it, you will have accomplished half of the task. Practice shows that once you have discovered that reason, it becomes much easier to do your work.

Try looking inside yourself. This one is from psychoanalysis. No matter how skeptical you are about the statement that all our problems stem from our childhood, the truth remains. Our procrastination (or, to be more specific, its underlying reason) can also be rooted in the childhood. Try digging in your own life. Maybe your parents brought you up “carrying everything to the point of perfection” or “helped” you develop a loser complex. As soon as you discover the underwater part of the iceberg, it will begin melting in front of your eyes.

Leave cliches and stereotypes behind, change the way you think. So often we become hostages to seeing things from the same perspective! That way we corner ourselves into traps and cannot act in any different way than usual. As a result, our self-esteem decreases. Instead of the cautious “I’ve never done this before” try telling yourself “This new task will help me move to a whole new level”.

Remember that every medal has a flip side. Just in the same way, every stereotype and cliche have an antipode.

Reward yourself with pleasant bonuses. No doubt a reward is a great way to motivate yourself to work. But you have to be consistent here: first work then bonus, never vice versa 🙂

Evaluate the potential result in advance. It could be very useful for situations when we are trying to persuade ourselves that giving up on the task is a good thing for us. We are trying to talk ourselves into it arguing that it will save us some strength for a more important task, help  avoid a failure that’s otherwise inevitable and so on. In truth, all those arguments are nothing but lies and excuses. Take a look at the drawbacks of avoiding difficulties. It may prevent you from learning something new, acquiring valuable skills or moving up the career ladder. It’s better to do and be disappointed than not do and be sorry.

One last piece of advice – the un-schedule

There was a great idea by N. Fiore for the hardened chronic procrastinators – an un-schedule. The point is to make a list of pleasant tasks for the day. Since work is by definition a burden for most of us, try planning your… rest and recreational activities.

Fiore recommends creating a daily schedule that will contain specific times for night sleep, getting up in the morning, breakfast, lunch and dinner, rendezvous with friends, resting in the family circle, reading, recreational activities, sports etc. Thanks to a schedule like that you realize just how little time we really have for work during the day. Those are virtually fragments of time, in between the pleasant tasks you have planned :). No doubt, once you have realized it, working becomes much easier.

Try following at least several of those recommendations and you will find yourself running out of time on much fewer occasions!