Procrastination is less about time management and more about coping. We avoid things we don’t want to do and replace it with things we’d much rather do. Like every story, there are two sides.
The things we put off are the things we don’t enjoy. Quite simply they do not give us pleasure.
We put things off because:
- We don’t understand them
- We don’t know how to do them, they’re too hard
- We don’t know where to start
- They are a problem to solve
- They’re boring.
- We do not value the outcome enough.
The things we will replace it with are things that:
- excite us
- are easy
- we can do it over and over quickly
- don’t take a lot of brainpower.
- Are fun!
It’s those raw desires that take control and make us feel like it is an involuntary action, why some people feel like they have no control over it. Interestingly, research done with university students found that those who forgave themselves for procrastinating on the research for their exams were more likely to achieve more (and procrastinate less) when researching for their next exam.
So what’s missing? What are the secret ingredients to stop procrastinating?
The “why” – what do you value most?
Dr John Demartini is the world expert on eliciting core values from his clients using the Value Determination Process. He says, that there are particular values, sometimes hidden from our conscious, that are motivators for what we do in life. It is the things that we value highest that we will always give the highest priority to.
For example, a highly organized person, is more likely to get the clients files sorted alphabetically, numerically and in priority order before getting on the phone as this is what gives them the greatest reward.
Social media or surfing the internet is a very easy distraction. We tend to follow or like the things that are high on our values. Facebook, Youtube and google monitor our behaviour and feed it to us too. It’s addictive. So we’ll easily find time and distraction in this overdoing something that is difficult.
Once you are very, very clear about your values, you will know, without a doubt where you will lose yourself, where you will waiver. So how do you use that to your advantage?
The trick is to relate your highest value to the task you don’t enjoy. I once heard of an amazing school teacher who had a group of boys in his class who were completely disinterested in maths. He found it difficult to sustain their attention or motivate them. A mad bunch of football enthusiasts, they just wanted to pass the time until they could kick the footy on the oval. So this teacher took the classroom to the football oval. They were gob-smacked. The teacher applied principles of maths to footy. He would kick the football and determine whether it was a 90-degree angle, right angle etc. He used all sorts of methodology to apply maths to the footy field. Suddenly the boys associated their highest value to something they hated and regained motivation.
If we can tie into our least inspirational task what we value most, we are more inspired to complete it.
If this is still a challenge, allocate a certain amount of time to a task you despise and ensure that you give yourself some reward time in the end. Gorge yourself on social media for an hour once you’ve done 2 hours of study, for example.
The “how” – it’s all too hard.
Do you have a “To-Do List” full of tasks that you work from?
Have you ever had a task that sat on your list forever? Let’s say for example you had on your list, “Start Google +”. You know you need to do it for your business but you keep putting it off. Why? The first reason why is because quite simply, this is a project. Not a task. This is the biggest mistake that many people make. A project is made up of a series of tasks. Let’s say, in your mind, you periodically remember that there was an email sent to you about Google+ by your SEO friend but you can’t find it and you have a funny feeling it’s out of date now. You also created an account, you think, but lost the password. There was a good video in the LinkedIn group you had. There’s a webinar coming up for beginners, you keep forgetting about that too. So you see, there’s a series of tasks that you need to nut out, prioritise and add to your “To-Do List” which will make starting the project easier. Take the time to brainstorm and prioritise your steps.
You can eat and elephant, one mouthful at a time. Once you have clarity, the project becomes easier.
It is often the menial tasks we put off too, like scanning receipts to send to your accountant. If you did this menial task on a regular basis, it wouldn’t be so bad. But imagine leaving the whole task to the end of the financial year? Creating routines and habits for the more menial tasks reduces the risk of procrastination. Here are some valuable tips for managing the routine of things you may not enjoy:
- Schedule regular menial tasks.
They may be low priority, but left unattended (like the receipts) they can become a big job that is now urgent. You can reschedule the activity as often as you need to, but by doing so, you a consciously aware that you are physically putting off a task.
- Set the “If/then” rules.
This works well for creating discipline in focus times. For example, IF my friends ring me to go out, THEN I’ll say NO. IF I sit down to write a blog, THEN I won’t open Facebook for at least 1 hour. THEN I’ll give myself a half-hour social media break.
Barbara Clifford (The Time Tamer) is a Productivity & Time Management Expert based in Alice Springs, Australia. She has spent over 20 years working in time precious industries such as film, hospitality and marketing. She has always had a burning passion to create order out of chaos. Seeking knowledge around systems, processes, gadgets, apps and stationary for whatever will organise the working world. Barbara is sought after like a beacon in a sea of chaos to provide professional clarity in the business environment and to simply GET THINGS ORGANISED. She is currently studying to be a certified Stress Management Practitioner. Barbara’s professional experience has included contracts with small businesses, Not For Profits, Aboriginal Organisations, Media, Marketing, Aged Care and Health Services. Visit www.timetamer.com.au.