Procrastination happens to us all.

There’s always times we will put off jobs or tasks until the next day or even until the deadline, as Benjamin Franklin once said about procrastination;

“You may delay, but time will not.”

Procrastination creates stress and it’s a fact that last-minute jobs are always rushed or you are left unprepared.

Probably the worst outcome of procrastination is that some delayed jobs just never get done.

What complicates matters is that when procrastination happens we spend most of our time and energy doing everything but the job that we are putting off.

The overall effect of procrastination is that productivity plummets and we become less effective and our ability to succeed diminishes.

The term procrastination comes from the Latin pro ‘forward’ and crastinus ‘of tomorrow’.

It has been noticed for years and described succinctly by Parkinson that we always use the time available to us, what happens is that we may still do what needs to be done yet we fill the remaining time with procrastion.

”Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Cyril Northcote Parkinson.

Often we try to disguise our avoidance of the job in hand by being very busy doing things that may be interesting, and even useful, but don’t contribute towards the main goal, we even do the things we would normally hate doing.

Why do people procrastinate? Which one are you?

Some people are just poorly organised and have poor time management, and the inability to prioritize.

Others try to multi-task or overload themselves with too many other tasks.

The perfectionist concentrates on ‘how to do’ the task perfectly rather than just applying the classic Nike slogan of ‘just do it’.

Some people have poor self belief and think they ‘can’t do it’ and worry about ‘failure’ before they even start.

A ‘dreamer’ loses interest and will move onto other things before they finish even a simple task.

Some people simply have poor motivation either to get going initially or to keep going.

Disguisers disguise their avoidance by being very busy doing other things.

Avoiding Procrastination in 10 Easy Steps?

1. Get into the right state of mind.

Before you do anything get into the right state of mind.

  • Imagine yourself succeeding,
  • Think about why you are doing the task,
  • Imagine how good it would feel to complete this task,
  • Think of a time when you were really productive,
  • Think about a time when you just couldn’t fail.

It’s important to anchor this positive state of mind, with practice you will increase your ability to hold a productive state for longer and prevent procrastination.

Above all else don’t let yourself be stress driven or anxious, you will spend more time worrying and less time doing.

2. Focus on your goal.
Write down in one simple sentence what you are wanting to achieve.
This sharpens the mind and gives you a results orientated mindset.

3. Work it backwards.

See how much time you have and schedule what you need to do working back from the deadline date.
By working backwards you can organise how to get something done in well organised small periods of work.
Regular focussed, consistent activity is a great way of getting things done.

By using a system and with a regular feeling of completion even of only small parts of a task trains your unconscious mind to stop worrying about the deadline and trains it to start working on solving problems instead.

4. Make it Happen.

Set yourself up to win!
Make sure that if it’s on the calendar it gets done.

You can make ‘following through’ more likely to happen by planning your day around your task and leaving a reasonable amount of time for its completion.

Keep track of your social events and plan your activity around your holidays.

‘Never fall behind’ You must be willing to catch up if necessary to get you back on schedule.

5. Break it up and Chunk it down.

Break up or ‘chunk’ the task down into its parts.

Think about the task as a series of small jobs write a list of all of the jobs ‘to do’ and then do one.

Remember doing a small job is still something, it may even lead to another job.

It’s important to do one job at a time and do it well, rather than trying to multi-task.

Complex task and projects must be broken down into smaller tasks which are manageable and achievable, long complex tasks lead to procrastination.

6. Avoid Distractions.

Turn off the Internet browser, turn off the TV, close the office door and direct all of your attention to the task in hand without the temptation of being distracted to procrastinate.

7. Work for 10.

Give it 10 minutes of your time!

The worst that can happen is that you only do 10 minutes, it’s better than nothing at all and it keeps the task alive.

8. Look for Cues and Clues of procrastination.

Behaviour happens in patterns, and some patterns of behaviour become habits which are hard to break.

The first step here is to look for clues in your behaviour pattern that tell you that procrastination is happening or that you are losing focus.

Think back to the past, think about when you have failed to do something,

  • What were you telling yourself ?
  • Why did you put off the task? 
  • What did you end up doing instead?
  • How did you feel?

Stop the procrastination when you see, or feel it is happening to you, get back into the right state of mind and get that task completed!

9. Motivate Yourself to prevent proctastination.

Think about how bad you would feel if you failed to do what you set out to do.

Bad feelings and the avoidance of this pain can really help you to motivate you.

Give yourself a treat, reward yourself for good effort and being consistent.

The carrot and the stick are great way of leveraging yourself to take action.

Surround yourself with a good team of ‘doers’, get friends, family and colleagues on board to support you, there’s nothing like the support of a team.

Ticking tasks off along the way is also great for motivation.

10. Enjoy Yourself.

Change the way you are doing the task, try and enjoy yourself at the same time.

End note

It may be more difficult with certain tasks to avoid procrastination but with the information here you might just become more productive.