Do you often put off tasks until the last minute? Do you often find yourself in a mad rush to hit a deadline even though you had several weeks or months to prepare? Then you, like many others, are highly likely to be a procrastinator. Procrastination essentially means to delay doing something until another time. It is a trait many have, and it often has nothing to do with the type of task. Some people can just always find a reason to put something off even if it is something they really enjoy. It could be a chore such as doing the washing up. It could be related to completing a project at work or school. Or any other task or action that a person is supposed to do. Your friend who is always late for everything is highly likely to be a procrastinator. There is an old saying that procrastination is the thief of time and this sums up the impact of procrastination nicely. Ultimately, if you want to be as productive as possible, you need to stop procrastinating and begin to burn through the to do list as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Why do we Procrastinate?
The truth is people procrastinate for a variety of reasons. The most obvious is that people simply put off doing something that could be hard or unpleasant. For example, I don’t think any of us prioritise cleaning our bathroom as the first task to complete in a day. It is incredibly important to have a clean bathroom for obvious reasons, but it is also often the least regularly cleaned room in any house. Sometimes we procrastinate because we honestly do not know how to do a task. Your boss may give you an extra project, but if you haven’t done it before, they can cause some people to delay as the genuinely do not know how to begin to complete it and are too afraid to ask for help. Another key reason can be that the activity is time consuming. This is one of the tricks the mind plays on us, if something is deemed to take a long time, rather than start immediately because we will need more time, our brain often rationalises that we should do it last and get the smaller tasks out of the way first!
OK, maybe this seems obvious, but you will be amazed at how few people actually do this. In this day and age, one of the leading causes for distractions is our mobile phone, so if one of the reasons you keep putting off things is because you keep on scrolling, put the phone away! If you want to stop procrastinating, you have to take accountability and act. Sure, external factors will occasionally mean we had no choice but to put something off. But the truth is most procrastination is a conscious choice. Whether it is your mobile phone, watching that show on Netflix, playing with the dog or anything else, create a space where you cannot be distracted while you complete whatever it is you need to focus on.
Write it down
Did you know crossing off something on your to do list actually provides you with the same chemical reaction you get when you get a like on social media? By writing down tasks and crossing them off, you will actively look to get that endorphin boost by completing the task on your list. In addition, by writing down that you will do the task today, it makes it a lot more likely that you will do it, as by writing it down you are committing to doing it. You should also ensure you put the hardest tasks first. Instinct will be to do them last, but research shows that doing these tasks first is most effective. As the day goes on and you get more tired, you are more likely to put the hardest tasks off, whereas first thing in the morning, you will be able to get them out of the way and then get on with the rest of your day.
Get a friend to hold you accountable
Finally, if you are just unable to keep self-discipline no matter how hard you try and are just unable to avoid distraction then you should get a friend to help you. As humans we are hard wired to seek the approval and validation of our social group. It is an evolutionary instinct that was essential to our survival. So, if you are putting off going to the gym, get a friend to agree to join you. It is a lot harder to cancel on a friend if they have got up at 6am to go to the gym with you. You aren’t just putting off your gym time, but you are also going to upset your friend. Likewise, if you are meant to clear out the basement this weekend, it may help to get the whole family to spend the afternoon spring cleaning. It’s a task that can be completed a lot quicker than just one person and you aren’t going to feel like you are left out while the rest of the family watch Netflix!
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