Lately I’ve been reading all sorts of things about procrastinating because… I’m procrastinating. I really want to stop my pfaffing. Of course,wanting to do something about procrastination is a complete oxymoron. I’ve been getting around to it for about 27 years.
Why do we do it?
There are lots of reasons why we don’t do what we’re supposed to do when we’re supposed to do it. You might find one or more of your own reasons here (and a little word for helping you overcome the whys):
We are secret rebels
Not many of us like being told what to do, even if we’re telling ourselves. I’ve actually made rebelling against myself an interpretive art form. If you grow up raging against the machine, chances are rebellious behaviour is fairly ingrained in your psyche. So even if procrastination is ultimately only punishing yourself, part of you still feels pretty smug about ignoring the To Do list and sticking it to the man. Yo.
A very stern chat with our wayward inner child is needed here.
We’re not interested in what we have to do
Let’s face it, no one ever procrastinates about reading a favourite book or having a morning cuppa with a friend. If we love something, we tend to just do it. A lack of interest in the task at hand is a big reason why many of us fail to get on with the job. There will always be things we are loathe to do, no matter how much we love our life, but if you find this kind of procrastination is a repeat occurrence chances are you are spending way too much time doing things you don’t love.
A heart to heart with ourselves might solve this one.
We don’t actually know what we’re doing
If you feel out of your depth and know you’re procrastinating because you simply don’t know where to start, you need to go back to the beginning. In this internet age there is really no excuse to not know anything, so if a lack of knowledge is holding you back, take the time to learn as much as you can about the task at hand. This is dangerous territory for a procrastinator, of course, so make sure you set a goal and a limit on your research time.
Give yourself permission to do a little research to find a launch platform for getting the task done.
We underestimate our abilities
Lots of us procrastinate because we’re scared that if we start, we’ll fail. If you never begin anything, you can’t fail, right? And if you always do things at the last minute you can say you didn’t give it your best effort so if you fail it’s okay because you could have done it better if you had more time, right?
Either lower your expectations or learn to fail forward. Either way, just know you’ll be okay.
We overestimate our abilities
Conversely, lots of times its our humongous belief in our own capabilities that prevent us from doing things in a timely manner. “Oh, I’m a really fast worker,” we boast while we fiddle about doing who knows what while the work stacks up. “I work really well, under pressure,” we say as we confidently watch time tick away, never panicking, never budging until suddenly we realise that despite being a “fast worker, best under pressure” it’s actually not physically possible to do the workload we’ve amassed in the time we have left. Now that’s pressure. Cue panic and further procrastination (see below).
Try moving your deadlines forward by a few days and use your remarkable powers of denial to convince yourself the new deadline is true.
We are simply overwhelmed
There’s a lot to do in an average day and none of us ever listens when people talk about “scheduling down time” so procrastination becomes our down time. Without procrastination, many of us would fail to turn our Go button to Pause at all. The trouble with using procrastination in this way is once you start, it’s hard to stop.
Try scheduling some proper rest time into your day and see if it helps.
Nice tips, but what’s this ultimate tool you speak of?
Ah, the ultimate tool is a timer. Sorry, were you expecting something more interesting? You can be fancy and get an app like Pomodoro or you can just use your phone timer like I do, but either way, you need a timer.
Here’s how I use the timer to give myself the nudge I need:
1. Work for five minutes
Five minutes of anything is totally achievable and setting a timer is the perfect way to just begin. Set the timer, get stuck into the task and chances are you won’t even notice the timer going off.
2. Stop for five minutes
If you’ve used the timer method and you’re immersed in the task you used to procrastinate over, chances are you’ll forget to take a break. There’s countless research that tells us we need to take breaks for our physical wellbeing and ironically to get the most from our time. For the purposes of our procrastination-busting mission, we can just say that taking scheduled breaks will mean we are less likely to procrastinate next time.
3. Challenge yourself for five minutes
This is one for nerdburger like myself (please stop reading if you do not identify as a nerd as I’m about to completely embarrass myself). I like to set the timer and try to get an everyday task done faster than I’ve ever done it before. This is how I developed my 1 hour total house clean method and I’m not adverse to washing up to a timer, doing my invoicing to a timer, walking or running to a timer, etc. There is no end to what I can achieve with my little timer bleeping at me every 5 to 10 minutes.
The only thing I won’t do to a timer is wake up in the morning. Sadly, I’ve never managed to find anything that motivates me to do that…
Are you a fellow procrastinator? What finally gets you started?