Do you find yourself procrastinating at work? You know when you put off the thing that you know you need to do, but will find something easier or more pleasurable to do instead?
If so, you’re not alone. In fact, according to Psychology Today, everyone procrastinates sometimes, but 20 percent of people chronically avoid difficult tasks and deliberately look for distraction which, unfortunately, are increasingly available.
So why do we procrastinate? Well, some of the key themes underpinning procrastination (Dryden 2000) include:
- Avoidance. We become anxious about the situation and will, therefore, avoid doing it.
- Anxiety. We become anxious about the situation or task itself or about ‘not doing it’.
- Restoring the balance of autonomy. This is where we do not want to be told what to do, put off doing it and thereby we assume control of when we will do it.
- Pre-disposition to last minute activity, usually frenzied. This is where we favour doing things at the last minute. If you are familiar with your MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) preference, this could be those with a preference for ‘perceiving’, manifested by pressure prompted behaviour.
- Interpersonal ploy. Where we think that if we put off the task for long enough, someone else may do it instead!
- Over commitment or taking on too much. Where we feel already over committed and we put the task off because we feel overwhelmed.
Which of these can you relate to?
Understanding why you are procrastinating can help in how to overcome it and develop more impactful habits enabling you to focus and accomplish what you want for yourself, your team and your business.
Below are 7 ways to overcome procrastination at work:
- Identify the cause of the procrastination – from above themes. Once you create an awareness around why you are procrastinating in the first place, that knowledge makes it easier to make changes, and recognise when you’re doing it in the future and refocus once more on what you most want to accomplish.
- Notice what you are saying to yourself, for example, the negative self-talk about the situation or task. More often than not, individuals overestimate the difficulty of the task. Be more trusting of yourself and your capability.
- Recognise your own behaviour patterns, for example, allowing distractions to limit your focus. If this is a habit for you, try the Pomodoro Technique which encourages you to set a timer for 25 minutes to focus on a task and then take a short break before committing to another focused period of time until you complete your task.
- Break the task down into smaller chunks. Allocate time in your diary to focus your activity on the task in smaller chunks and review your progress. Consider your own preferences for when your energy is at its highest to tackle the more difficult elements e.g. are you a morning or afternoon person?
- Be realistic and identify strategies to sustain your moment, for example, rewarding specific milestones. We can overestimate the time it takes to complete a piece of work or task and therefore quickly become disheartened when we feel we have not made progress and therefore put off completing it. Take time out to think about what is required in undertaking the project or task and build in thinking, doing and reviewing time.
- Identify and articulate the benefits of replacing the procrastination habit to become more focused and accomplish what you set out to accomplish. It can be helpful to connect with your ‘why’e.g. why do you want to accomplish it, what is most important for you in doing it, what will change as a result of you doing it.
- Reflect on what meaning and motivation you are adopting towards the situation. How does this impact the outcome? What other meaning could you give it? How might you change the motivation behind you doing it?
If you have found this blog useful and would like to develop further impactful habits in your career and leadership, contact me now for a free initial coaching call to see how I might support you accomplish your goals.