Alison Wood works as the Communications Manager and graphic designer for Knowledge Train, a London based project management training provider; she joins us on the blog today with some great thoughts on procrastination…
Did you know that “bingeing” on the low priority tasks from your to-do list is a sure sign that you are procrastinating? You’re giving yourself a false sense of achievement by putting off the tasks that you know will bring you the most benefit, and are definitely the most important. I practiced this as a student with a real knack, even cleaning my house from top to bottom was more important than writing my essay. This was true until the day before the deadline, when the panic started to set in…
What is procrastination?
Psychologists define procrastination as the gap between intention and action. Procrastination is the mastered art of putting important things off. By surrounding ourselves with other distractions, we feel like we are being productive, and you know what? We’re not.
Why do we do it?
Procrastinators like to tell themselves that they perform better under pressure. They enjoy the pump of adrenaline by leaving things until the last minute, the crazy rush and then the relief of completing something just in time. Deadlines that are within a few days motivate procrastinators more than deadlines in a few weeks. Procrastination is often defined as poor time management, but it is actually about somebody being overly optimistic of their abilities to complete a task in the given time frame.
Procrastination sufferers make excuses for themselves when they don’t finish or even begin their to-do lists. Typical excuses are “I perform better under pressure” “I’ll feel more motivated after I go to the gym” “I’m too tired to do this today, I’ll do it tomorrow.”
The possible reasons behind doing this are:
- Fear of failure
- Lack of enjoyment in what you are doing
- Delaying the stress of beginning a difficult task
- Overloading yourself with work
- Lack of confidence in the task
- Perfectionism – this one’s a real biggie. When you are a perfectionist, you never feel like you have finished
Everybody procrastinates to some extent; in fact 15-20% of the population are procrastinators. Procrastination can even be a symptom of an underlying issue such as anxiety. The difference between people who procrastinate and those who don’t is that people who don’t; will complete their work no matter how they are feeling and will rarely make excuses for not doing it.
Be wary of to-do lists!
To-do lists are the first step we take when becoming more productive and organised. For some people, the to-do list is the only task they actually complete! Scrawling down your tasks in a frenzied brain dump will give you no indication of the prioritisation of tasks, and could even result in added stress and feelings of being overwhelmed. When you voice or visualise your ideas, you are more likely to remember and to take action. You just have to make sure that your to-do list is written constructively.
A constructive to-do list
If you’re into brainstorming, then great – but after you brainstorm, carefully write your to-do list following these tips:
- Give each task a level of priority
- Assign due dates to each task
- When you complete a difficult task, reward yourself with an easier one to boost morale!
- Take frequent breaks to improve your concentration. The average adult’s concentration span dwindles at 20 minutes
- Use the SMART goals technique to write your action points. It makes everything more specific with a target to work towards
Still feeling overwhelmed?
If you are writing and working through your to-do lists in a constructive manner and are still feeling the urge to spring-clean your house in the winter time, then there is only one thing that will beat your procrastination. Start the task!