Does procrastination make people happy? Does it improve performance? The short answer from the accumulated research literature is “no” on both accounts.
You may remember a previous blog where I mentioned a client that was making procrastination a driving force in her life; she was considering whether she should review her career as she was unable to complete a piece of work that had been outstanding for years!
Procrastination is a terrible habit to get into, but a pattern that many follow and eventually turn into a limiting belief; “it’s not even worth thinking about, I’ll never get it finished”. We know that procrastination is not a good habit to develop yet we continue to procrastinate in our daily lives.
Here are some strategies you may want to think about to break that pattern:
- Look at the bigger picture. What I mean by this, is to understand why you do what you do. Being able to take a step back and getting clear of what the bigger picture is, will help you understand why you need to complete the task. If you have no idea what the purpose is, you will begin to procrastinate.
- Before you go any further – do you actually want/need/have to get this done? Perhaps you’re beating yourself up about something that, for instance, just isn’t congruent to your values, isn’t something wanted to do in the first place, or has been going on for so long that the need for it no longer exists – however, don’t let this check be an opportunity to procrastinate further!
- Are you having the right conversation with yourself that uses the language that will motivate you to carry on with the task?
- Review your outcome – have you got a well formed outcome?
- Break the outcome down into bite sized objectives. If it’s like a big project, like organising a conference, break the project down into its critical path/main milestones – and make each objective its own outcome. Have the deadline set in your calendar then plan when you will do parts of the project. When you can break down a big project, not only will you feel less overwhelmed but you are encouraging yourself to complete the task.
- Set the dates to undertake work on the project and milestone dates out in your calendar. When it comes to a big project, it will be very important for you to stay committed and motivated. What has really helped me is to set the deadline in my calendar then plan throughout the week of when I want to do sections of the task. If you have a busy schedule, it would be wise to plan for the week in advance. Make it feasible, SMART and, if it’s a large project, incorporate some contingency time.
- Accountability; Holding yourself accountable will help you stay on track and focused. You can either use the calendar strategy or tell a colleague that you plan on getting a certain project done by a specific time. If you are self-employed or working from home, explain the need for support to ensure the work is done and ask a friend/member of your family/spouse to hold you to account.
- Mentor; If you are doing work in isolation, find yourself a mentor – someone to bounce ideas around with, sense check that you’re going in the right direction and keep you working to your plan – include a series of dates at pertinent points within the plan in your calendar to touch base with your mentor.
Remember, only you can determine your destination – if you say you are going nowhere, that’s where you’ll go – but if you say you are going to succeed, then you h
ave taken the first step to getting there.
Oh, and by the way, the client who had taken 7 years to not complete a project? She’s four months away from completion – I know, I’ve seen the plan.
Carole King – It’s Too Late