Picking up right where we left off with last week’s article….Here are some of the most common reasons for procrastination.
3) Overload and Inability to Prioritize
It is very common for all of us to be swamped with work.
It is the nature of life that there is stuff to do and it takes significant effort and significant actions to accomplish.
The to-do list can feel never ending, and the tasks seem to not stop.
The individual fears ever being able to complete anything, if not everything, and is unable to decide which task to start doing. This is similar to an inability to prioritize between the urgent and important, and what is less so.
Also, in high-stress and fast-paced jobs, all the tasks may be urgent and important, and that makes it more difficult because the individual does not know where to start. The person might be scared off into not doing anything.
We’ll talk more about this later.
4) Poor Time Management
This occurs for two main reasons.
First, people far over-estimate what they can accomplish in a day. If a person is overconfident in his own abilities, he may risk putting off an important or difficult task to a later date because he believes that with his capabilities, he will be able to finish it in time.
This is a common disaster scenario for a lot of people.
What happens in real life is there are lots of “emergency situations” that need to be handled, thus leaving little time to do what needs to be done.
Fact is that “emergencies” are something productive people PLAN ON.
Preparation meeting opportunity is luck.
Being prepared for the bad things happening is plain old smart.
Because they happen a lot…especially if others are dependent on you.
(If one person is dependent on you, you have twice the opportunity for an “emergency.” 5 dependents? 5 times the opportunity…make sense?)
Another person might stretch the number of hours available in a day unconsciously. He may plan his time without taking into account fatigue, meals or short breaks needed to keep the mind in tip-top shape.
There are people who fail to prioritize their time effectively.
It is always easier to do the simple and unimportant tasks first, but this problem goes beyond that when the individual is unable to differentiate between what needs to be done first, and what is less important.
An individual may also choose to procrastinate because the task is not challenging enough and he feels bored. He finds it difficult to concentrate on the task, and would rather be engaged in alternative activities.
This is especially the case for jobs which are repetitive and lengthy, and require very little thought. Not all work is exciting and stimulating, and certain tasks that are repetitive and unchallenging can cause the individual to be less motivated to excel and be productive.
There’s a lot of reasons people can be feel bored, it’s the response to the boredom that matters when it comes to productivity or what I’ve come to call “practicing for death” (procrastination).
6) Poor Self-Esteem
There are a lot of people who constantly harbor thoughts that they are not good enough, or that they always fail, and are probably just stupid and incapable. This kind of self-directed negative thinking makes it difficult for them to attempt projects, especially important ones, as they feel so inadequate that they should not even be doing a task of this magnitude or importance.
The deal is this: People are as stupid as they want to be, RIGHT NOW. They are as EFFECTIVE as they want to be, RIGHT NOW.
The root cause of this form of thinking could be previous failures, or abrasive and abusive comments from people around them, causing them to be labeled with their own inadequacies and perceived shortcomings.
When people have stereotyped you, USE THAT AS LEVERAGE TO SHOW THEM THEY ARE WRONG.
Showing people how good you are is fun, showing people they are idiots is …well…intoxicating.
In the past, people have underestimated me.
“He’ll never have a successful book…should get a ‘real job’.”
And then the warp drives kick in.
People who suffer from low self-esteem become unduly affected by people’s comments putting them down. They genuinely believe that they are inferior and incapable of working well which is highly generalized and RARELY TRUE.
I meet VERY FEW people that can’t achieve great things.
Unfortunately, believing prolonged condemnation from peers and the people around have caused them to firmly believe that failure is the only thing they can excel in.
It’s time to CHANGE (Success) WHO YOU LISTEN TO, WHO YOU HANG OUT WITH and WHO YOU BELIEVE IN.
Some people have unrealistically high standards and expectations, and this causes them to procrastinate as they feel that they do not have the skills and abilities that are needed to complete it satisfactorily. They are afraid of attempting it, and not doing it perfectly, hence they make excuses that they need to acquire more knowledge before they can attempt it.
Sound familiar? Perfection can paralyze.
The best way to break out of this cycle is to tell yourself that you can do it, and the task is easier than what you think it is, or that it’s better to do something, rather than nothing. Or perhaps, you need to speak to your supervisor at work to draw up an accurate and realistic level of expectation.
If you are a perfectionist, your boss will probably be thrilled to tell you they admire your good work and would rather have you accomplish 100 tasks very well vs. 1 task perfectly.
This occurs when you find yourself avoiding the task, or simply refusing to complete it. The cause of this could be an argument with your superior, your significant other or your teacher or project team. The feelings of anger and resentment against them can translate into an unwillingness to do what they have assigned you to or requested that you do.
Another common reason for procrastination could be the anger felt at having the task forced upon you, when you are either unwilling or uninterested in it, and have expressed so and been ignored. This would cause feelings of resentment and result in avoidance.
And the “list” goes on…
There are many different reasons why people tend to procrastinate, and this is a bad habit that many people participate in. …that MOST PEOPLE…participate in…
There is a difference between being momentarily lazy, and procrastinating as a habit. By identifying the reason for your procrastination, you will be able to turn things around and finally get to get stuff done, enhance your productivity and feel a new sense of accomplishment and self esteem.
Specific Steps to Reduce Procrastination
My best encouragement is to not think in terms of just doing little things to feel “success”, but to attack BIG PROJECTS and do them to completion TODAY.
If you have acknowledged that you have a problem, it’s time you sat up and did something about it. DON’T go to Procrastinators Anonymous! That’s doing the same thing.
Don’t let procrastination ruin your life, relationships and job.
Try one or more of these….
#1: Plan your Projects…It starts here
To most people PLAN feels like a four letter word. (You know, you stub your toe and yell, “Plan it!”)
Whenever you have a large project, or even a smaller project with a few components, you should plan like a good football coach.
If you have a plan of action, and you WORK your plan, procrastination will be pushed out of your Familiarity Zone. Then you literally find procrastinating hard to do. I know that I find it very, very hard to put off projects that have to be done.
Start with a plan that includes the most important stuff you have to accomplish.
Keep your plan simple.
Be sure that the tasks you plan to accomplish will get you where you need to go.
Most people spend 80% of the time doing the stuff that produces the proverbial 20% of the results. And they truly believe they are accomplishing something.
Don’t just write something down for the purpose of putting something on paper.
Legend Point: Write down stuff that is the BLUEPRINT of your project. Establish a plan that will help you achieve your goal.
Don’t OVER PLAN or you will be inclined to procrastinate because the plan will seem so detailed and overwhelming.
Some people never stop planning. That’s called procrastination which is the same as practicing for death. You have the blueprint, get to work.
#2: Make Everything Concrete
Recent research has concluded that people are much more likely to take valuable actions on concrete but not abstract desires.
This is pretty important in beating procrastination when you think of the significance of the line between commitment and completion.
As you look at your project list for the day/week/month, be certain that you have noted those tasks that MUST be done in concrete terms. Reframe those that are not important today/this week/this month into abstract ideas.
Changing the framing of your projects in the mind will allow your brain to break the procrastination addiction in a much quicker way than you might imagine.
It almost seems like an unimportant nuance…it’s not. Try it for a week and watch how much you get done by this simple 3 minute exercise.
AND as a bonus tip for the day, allow yourself to set RANGE OUTCOMES in the course of each day so you don’t get bogged down into thinking about an EXACT outcome. Instead think, I need to get between 2000 and 2500 words written.
By combining the range with the concrete you create your HIGHEST PROBABILITY frame.
And the frame alone is typically enough to trigger you to get IT done.
#3: Immediacy – Get It Done Thinking
Your responsibilities can be done; no matter how daunting and challenging they may seem initially. Tell yourself that you WILL do it, and that you choose to do so. Recognize the fact that procrastinating is deadly, and that you choose to overcome it, either by speaking to someone you trust to guide you, or by buckling down and making stuff happen.
The key here is that you want to overcome your habit of procrastinating, and that you DECIDE to MOVE on what has to be done. The sense of immediacy or urgency is a muscle that can be built.
That’s all for now. We’ll cover the additional strategies next time…
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See Part III of this article series:
Overcoming Procrastination The New Way