Ever made a list of things to do and found yourself doing everything but the one thing you said you were going to do?
You are not alone!
Having been working on our goals, some of the regular Feel Good Friday team were finding procrastination was stopping them achieving them so at last week’s session we looked at what procrastination is, what impact it has on us, why we do it & finally strategies to overcome it!
So, what is it?
We defined it as putting off doing something, maybe pure avoidance or allowing ourselves to be distracted by other things. Maybe we feel intimidated by a task but overall we recognised that very often it’s not the actual task that’s the issue, it’s starting it in the first place!
Additionally we realised that it’s an active choice, at some level, even if we’re not really conscious of it, we’re deciding to do one thing rather than another.
What’s the impact?
The impact of procrastination can be quite varied, for some it was that nothing actually gets done. That then can lead to frustration, stress & anxiety.
In turn, those can then lead to physical symptoms such as stomach problems & insomnia. Or more emotional responses such as over-eating, drinking, or other forms of self numbing.
If not addressed, in the longer term these could also lead to a psychological impact on us and our relationships with those around us.
Why do we do it?
This was an interesting one to unpick & understand why we procrastinate.
Sometimes we just feel overwhelmed, there’s so much to do, we literally don’t know where to start.
Or maybe we struggle with perfectionism and the need for something to be absolutely perfect or we won’t do it.
Some identified putting barriers in their own way e.g can’t possibly do my tax return until I’ve cleaned & tidied the whole house.
Some might be “thrill seekers” and enjoy leaving things to the last minute or maybe they are professional avoiders, using a variety of tactics to avoid starting a particular task.
And of course, a big one was fear. Fear of failure, of something going wrong, particularly if there is a strong persuasion towards perfectionism…
So, with having worked through what it is, why we do it & the possible impacts, what are the strategies to save us from a life of procrastination?!
Strategies to banish procrastination!
Luckily we came up with lots of these!
1. Eat your frog 🐸 – this comes from a quote from Mark Twain who said, if your job is to eat a frog, eat it first thing in the morning then you know the worst is behind you. So the frog would be your worst task, be that the tax return or cleaning the bathroom. Get that done first thing and the rest of the day is rosy.
2. Project plan/lists – another metaphor helps here. If you were eating an elephant 🐘 you wouldn’t eat it all in one go, you’d break it down into parts and eat it bit by bit. Same goes for the tasks or goals, what needs to happen for you to achieve them? Which step do you need to tackle first and when will you do that?
3. Ivy Lee Method – this is a 100 year old method to help keep you focused from the off. Each evening decide what 6 tasks are the priority for the next day and the priority order. Then in the morning you don’t have to think where to start and run the rest of decision fatigue – you have a plan to work through! At the end of the day, any tasks not completed can be added to the list for the following day.
4. Set yourself time limits to do things – some people like to set blocks of time to do things e.g an hour for project work completion, an hour of social media planning followed by an hour of gardening before lunch. Another approach is The Pomodoro Technique which was developed in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo and uses a timer to break work into 25 minutes sessions followed by short breaks more information can be found here The Pomodoro Technique. There are also loads of apps that allow you to set timers to keep you on track – here is a review on some of the best ones to use Best Pomodoro Apps
5. Name it to tame it – when you find yourself procrastinating, ask yourself what emotion or feelings are underneath that and then work out why you are feeling that way and what needs to happen to let that go and get on with the task.
6. I want to / I choose to – so often we do what we think we “should” or “ought” to be doing. How would it be to use “I want” or “I choose” instead. Even if you choose to do a task other than the “one”, making a conscious decision that you’ve chosen to do that helps you to take ownership of it and your decision.
7. Long term goals – what are your long term goals? Understanding those can help motivate you to do things now. For instance if your long term goal is to fit into a particular outfit, focussing on that will help you make healthier choices around food and activities.
8. Setting deadlines – who here thinks they work better to deadlines? Yep, there’s quite a few of us. A strategy could be to set yourself deadlines – maybe telling someone else or agree a timeframe with a colleague so that you have an accountability buddy to help keep you focussed.
9. Reward – Congratulate yourself for having completed a task by rewarding yourself. Whether that be a cup of tea in the sunshine, a shopping spree with your bestie or a day away, do something to mark the fact you’ve completed the task.
10. What can I do in the next minute? When you’re feeling overwhelmed and not sure where to start, you can ask yourself this question and do that. Then when that’s done, what about the next minute and so on. Breaking things down into tiny chunks can help you realise they are manageable and break the procrastination cycle.
11. Metaphorical Bank – if you were to work on a task for just 15 mins a day, over a year that would equate to 91.25 hours! So, even doing just a small amount, regularly, really adds up towards achieving your goals.
Which of these will you try? Feel free to add your comments below and to add any other strategies we can test out!
As a final point, procrastination has it’s place, maybe it’s just not the right time to start that task… However if it’s having an impact on your daily life, it’s time to banish the procrastination and JFDI. Remember it’s the getting started that’s the issue, not the actual task so once you get started you’ll be on a roll!