Are you sabotaging your own success? If you’re a chronic procrastinator, chances are … you might be.
Procrastination is the act of putting off what seems like a mundane, intimidating, or unpleasant task to some (usually vague) future date, replacing it with a task or activity that feels more comfortable, exciting, or pleasant. This is not a genetic trait; psychologists tell us that procrastinators are made, not born. This is good news for procrastinators! Though it takes work and retraining, you CAN increase your follow through and productivity and multiply your chances of success.
As you may have already discovered, life becomes increasingly challenging for the procrastinator, especially when things get hectic. When we’re kids, most of the deadlines we face are school-assignment driven. However, that quickly changes when we’re in college and worsens precipitously with careers and family. Keeping it all together without missing deadlines becomes almost impossible when you juggle a million balls and chronically wait until the last minute to get things done.
What does procrastination sound like in your head? It says things like, “I’ll feel more like doing this tomorrow,” or, “I work best under pressure.” But, in fact, you don’t feel like doing it the next day and you don’t really produce your work best under pressure.
What does procrastination look like? It looks like distraction—which is particularly easy to come by these days. Most procrastinators actively look for distractions, especially those that don’t require a lot of commitment. Checking e-mail is a great example. It appears productive, but is often little more than a time-waster in the face of more important things that need to be done. And then there’s Facebook …
If you tend to procrastinate important tasks, here are five steps to help break this habit:
- Start by setting your deadline the day before your task is due. Then, simply work backwards by estimating how much time you’ll need and the number of days over which you’ll have to spread the work. Once that’s done, you’ll have your plan in place with a beginning and end and a series of in-between days with their required time allotments.
- Promise yourself some “feel-good” rewards at the end of your task. Often we procrastinate because the benefits of completing a task don’t seem beneficial enough when compared to the amount of work and time required. Increasing the “win” factor for yourself—even if only psychologically—can be motivating.
- Ask your friends to check in on your progress and hold you accountable—and to NOT accept your excuses. Peer pressure is another great motivator.
- Improve your ability to make decisions. Much procrastination occurs when decision-making skills are weak or underdeveloped.
- Regularly make and keep a “to-do” list so you can’t (conveniently) forget those unpleasant or intimidating tasks. And, be sure to block your time sufficiently to get the job done.
Once you practice these suggestions a few times, it becomes a piece of cake and you will be more effective. I have no doubt your success factor will shoot up exponentially: you’ll be a better student, a more valued employee, a more organized parent, and you’ll dramatically lower your stress level as well.
How have you learned to overcome procrastination and increase your productivity and effectiveness? Share your ideas and experiences with us by commenting below; we’d love to have the benefit of your insights and experiences.