The century old habit we are all too familiar with – Procrastination! While it is viewed by many as the evil enemy of productivity, I like to see it as this, it is not so much about the act, but more about the ‘why and what’ behind the act, as well as the frequency of the act.
So, if I find myself procrastinating, to identify if I am nearing a dangerous zone capable of actually harming my productivity, I need to provide honest answers to these three questions and if need be, ask close companions for their observations too.
1. Why am I procrastinating?
This question is quite important to help distinguish acute from chronic states of procrastination. If I put off something for personal reasons or after rescheduling my weekly itinerary, although that is technically procrastinating, it might not actually be harmful to my overall output. Such cases are true unless it becomes a chronic habit and that’s where the question of ‘how frequent the act is’ comes in.
Sometimes, it might actually work in your favour if you delay a task to a reasonable extent. It could be due to your intuition to wait, or because you just need time to draw on your creative side, so you choose to push the work forward.
As long as you can provide a reasonable and justifiable answer to your ‘why’, then it is more likely that you have things under control and in such situations, procrastinating should not mar your productivity.
2. What is the task I keep pushing forward?
The ‘what’ becomes a point of focus when it seems like you are doing fine generally in other areas, but find yourself procrastinating with particular tasks. In such instances, the problem might be due to anxiety about what you need to do specifically.
Let’s say you have plotted a plan or created a vision board to start a business on the side while you work at your current job. Now, during the execution phase, you find yourself procrastinating about the calls, emails or other requirements needed to put your business out there.
This could be due to a lack of confidence or anxiety about failure and not that you are lazy or just have the habit of putting things off. You could benefit immensely from getting in touch with a business coach to help you through the process in such cases.
Finding the ‘what’ behind procrastination helps to create personalised solutions to the issue at hand, so your productivity remains on track.
3. How frequently is this happening?
When you realise that it is not a particular task that makes you prone to procrastination but you just tend to push things forward till last-minute almost always, then the likelihood of it harming your general productivity becomes high. You need to do an internal personal reflection to discover why and how you have developed this habit. Common reasons are:
- A lack of motivation
- Not confident about completing a task
- Overconfidence which could sometimes work more against you than for you
- Just being plain lazy
- Confusion about how to begin or go about a task
- Not seeing the importance of a job, hence always postponing it.
In my experience, I have learnt that irrespective of the reasons why we procrastinate, we can tackle it effectively by incorporating these two habits:
1. Do little tasks first, and out-of-the-way.
My most productive days are days that I tick off most of the smaller and less strenuous jobs first. This gives me a certain boost of motivation and energy that makes me feel I can deal with just about anything! It sets me up with confidence to handle the main and more challenging tasks for the rest of that day.
It could be at home or at work, but try to get rid of the little and easy things first so you can see clearly to focus on those few bigger tasks. The sense of accomplishment you get from completing the easier jobs will help you take on the rest of the day with the right attitude.
2. Make proactivity your second best friend.
To be proactive simply means to be two or more steps ahead of the game. If you really want to outsmart or beat procrastination at its own game, take initiative and act in advance. Make things happen, don’t just wait for them to happen to you.
By being proactive, you are not just using a defensive strategy with procrastination, you are tackling it by going on the offense instead. You can achieve this in a number of ways. For instance, give yourself an earlier deadline to work on things. Solicit help much earlier instead of waiting for challenges to surface.
Have a plan for your back up plan. Whatever you do, stay ahead in the game by being proactive and you will find that you are procrastinating less.