Procrastination! Putting off for tomorrow what we can do today. We reason that we have time; that we can do it later; this is easy, we have this under control. And as we reason, the work is undone, the visit and phone call does not happen. The urgent matter remains undone and then we find ourselves working under pressure to complete. Some of us claim that we work best under pressure, but do we really?
Procrastination affects all persons and Lay in his research in 1986 concluded that procrastination was independent of the need to achieve, energy and self esteem, thus one can be self confident, energetic go-getter and still procrastinate (Mind Tools).
How do we know that we are procrastinating? Is it just because we have left a task for another day or completed a less urgent task before an urgent task? Completing easy less urgent tasks first as a plan of getting them out of the way quickly to be able to have more time to complete the more urgent or important tasks may be a good strategy just as taking a break when physically or mentally tired.
Signs of procrastination include:
- Inability to focus on the tasks at hand, starting the task but stopping often so the tasks drags on
- Taking a break shortly after commencing the tasks and taking frequent breaks to either eat or walk about
- Spending too much idle time, example, spending hours on Facebook, watching TV or other tasks not aligned to completing the work to be completed
- Excessive daydreaming or spending long hours before the work but not working
- Engaging in long conversations or focusing on less urgent things knowing that time is of the essence
Why do we procrastinate? Why do we leave things to the last minute and then scramble to finish? Some of the reasons include:
- An unpleasant task – something that has to be done but we do not like doing it
- Difficult task – sometimes we have a task that is complex and we have not figured out how to tackle it
- Depression – we may be depressed or anxious about something or where we are in our lives and in some cases, we are even unaware that we are depressed
- Overwhelmed by many tasks to complete – multitasking is often seen as a virtue however we can get overwhelmed when we have too many things to complete and procrastinate.
- Indecision – the inability to make a decision, to decide on the priorities
- Perfectionism – the strong desire to get the job done perfectly, we may procrastinate if we think we don’t have the skills or resources to get the job done perfectly
- Disorganisation – we lack organisation in our approach to work or our surroundings
Procrastination can be costly and the impact include:
- Compromised quality of work
- Loss of an opportunity
- Penalties for lateness
- Compromised health as we work long hours to complete or under tremendous stress, we do not exercise adequately and eat properly
- Imbalance in work-life – working long hours to complete a task may mean that we miss out on family events and spending quality time with our loved ones
What are some strategies to overcome procrastination?
- Set deadlines, including multiple deadlines for an assignment. This means breaking up the project into several milestones and setting a deadline for each. It is like celebrating small wins and each win serves as a motivator
- Set time-bound deadlines. Be as specific as possible, e.g. this is to be completed by Monday April 7, rather than saying this will be completed in April
- Ask for help – If we are overwhelmed or feel we don’t have the competence or resources to complete a task, we should ask for help
- Change how you view a particular task – if we dislike doing a task, we need to begin to tell ourselves we love it. We need to change our frame.
- Music can affect our moods so we should choose music to energise or motivate us to begin and complete the tasks
- Prepare a “To Do List” and regularly monitor it
- Organise work in smaller tasks to make them more manageable
- Learn to say “No” to unimportant things when we know we have an important deadline or a series of deadlines to meet
Procrastination is a habit developed over time and we need to break the cycle by recognosing when we are procrastinating and employing a strategy to break it. We must consistently do so. This week, if you find yourself procrastinating, call it and employ a strategy to get you back on track!
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Until we meet again, May the Lord continue to Keep Us in the Palm of His Hands.