"Never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time.” - Charles Dickens
This month, we are committed to reducing our procrastination! Although good old Charles says “never”, we very intentionally made sure to use the word ‘reduce’ instead of ‘stop’ or ‘quit’ when picking this month’s theme. That’s because procrastination happens to everyone! If you remember our posts all the way from the beginning of the year, making sure our goals and mindset are set up for success requires less categorical and more optimistic language.
This being said, we’d like to pay some attention to ways to prime ourselves toward productivity, as opposed to away from procrastination. Many of the same techniques for increasing focus are applicable to procrastination, so check out last month’s post for some resources. However, we’d like to do something a little different this month and look inwardly, asking ourselves two main questions to come to terms with our sometimes chronic procrastination.
Why do we procrastinate? Many people procrastinate important projects because of some inner anxiety or fear of failure. Lots of chronic procrastinators are, ironically, perfectionists. Understanding why we avoid a task is often related to other emotional or psychological things that need to be addressed. The key here is to be very honest with ones own self. When you tell yourself you’ll do it later, are you just trying to drown out another quieter voice inside? Very often, this is the case.
Other times, you may find that you are avoiding a task because it is genuinely unpleasant, or boring. This might be an important insight as well. If the vast majority of the tasks you do throughout the day are unpleasant, maybe you need a career change? Maybe you procrastinate because you lack passion for your cause? Maybe the tasks are indeed boring but they serve a greater purpose. Something as simple as reminding yourself of this may be all we need to kickstart our productivity.
Deep down we all know why we do what we do. We must not fear being honest with ourselves.
What conditions maximise my productivity? While it can be self defeating to make sure the environment is “just right” before setting out to work, there is something important to be said about creating an ideal working atmosphere for yourself. For example, do you require ambient noise? Do you need a multiple screens? Do you like open floor plans or natural light?
Ideals conditions need not be just about your physical surroundings. If you find yourself procrastinating on open ended projects but a creative genius when on a strict deadline, create artificial deadlines for yourself. Tell your friend, supervisor, or partner that you will share project X with them before it is due. You’ll feel the pressure of keeping your word while also giving yourself a buffer to improve should it be necessary. Agree to check in with someone in regular intervals to share your progress on a project or idea. If you’ve ever written a university thesis, you’ll know that forcing yourself to take stock and view what you’ve accomplished from a bird’s eye perspective sometimes feels like a distraction but adds up to produce critical insights and spurts of headway. Accountability leads to action.