Procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished. Procrastination has a high potential for painful consequences. It may interfere with our personal or academic success. There are those of us who wait until the due date is a day away. I am not talking about making sure the money is in the bank. I am talking about putting it off because it is a tedious chore that we do not enjoy doing. Procrastination is a big problem for many, and one that can harm your career.
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Whether your procrastination causes you to arrive late at work or late for meetings, or keeps you from turning projects in on time, employers o not look positively upon it There are several reasons why we procrastinate. If a project is absolutely overwhelming, to the point where you don’t even start it, break it down into small, specific steps. Do one or two each day. If you complete a step and are motivated to continue, fine. But if you’re not, that’s fine too because you have only committed to one small piece. Just don’t stop before completing that piece.
If there is no immediate payoff because the project is long term, build in mini-completion points. Design a reward system similar to what you do with a task you don’t like. Creating instant gratification will motivate you until you reach the final destination. If you know you can handle the project but just don’t know where to start, start anywhere. Just do something. Write a title on a piece of paper. Then write something else. Eventually you’ll be led to where you need to go. But it takes a little bit of momentum to get the ball rolling.
This doesn’t mean that you’ll use any of the material you start with. This is fine – you need a good finished product, not a good first draft. A final, common reason for procrastination is perfectionism. Be aware that there is a difference between doing something right and doing the right thing. Perfectionists can spend their time on the wrong thing, i. e. hanging and re-hanging a picture on the office wall. Looks great, but is it getting you anywhere? If the task is meaningless in the long run, it doesn’t really matter if you do it perfectly.
You can still do it well, just don’t let it consume you. If perfectionism is keeping you from beginning a task, reevaluate whether the payoff would be worth the effort of doing it perfectly. There are times when it is worth doing something perfectly. If this is the case, begin at the beginning, with the first segment, and do it extraordinarily well. But only strive for perfection where it counts. The rest of the time, just do it. Remember, the next time you’re procrastinating and can’t seem to overcome it, stop and figure out why.
Is the task even worth doing? If so, pick the appropriate solution based upon the root cause and you’ll whittle away those piles in no time. Also procrastination can be stopped if you recognize self-defeating problems such as fear and anxiety, difficulty concentrating, poor time management, indecisiveness and perfectionism. Identify your own goals, strengths and weaknesses, values and priorities. Compare your actions with the values you feel you have. Are your values consistent with your actions? Discipline yourself to use time wisely: Set priorities.
Study in small blocks instead of long time periods. For example, you will accomplish more if you study/work in 60 minute blocks and take frequent 10 minute breaks in between, than if you study/work for 2-3 hours straight, with no breaks. Reward yourself after you complete a task. Motivate yourself to study: Dwell on success, not on failure. Try to study in small groups. Break large assignments into small tasks. Keep a reminder schedule and checklist. Set realistic goals. Modify your environment: Eliminate or minimize noise/ distraction. Ensure adequate lighting.
Have necessary equipment at hand. Don’t waste time going back and forth to get things. Don’t get too comfortable when studying. A desk and straight-backed chair is usually best (a bed is no place to study). Be neat! Take a few minutes to straighten your desk. This can help to reduce day-dreaming. If procrastination only had negative consequences, very few people would do it. As it is, we all procrastinate to varying degrees, reaping the short-term positive rewards that come from putting things off.
On those occasions when you have too much to do, deciding not o do any of them can reduce the immediate tension and stress you were experiencing. There is a natural tendency to avoid unpleasant things. Putting them off (even though you will have to do them later) means, at the very least, that you do not have to face them right now. Plus, if you are lucky, they will go away or someone else will do them. Procrastinating can also be exciting. It causes crises and the adrenaline rush that goes along with them.
Waiting until the last possible minute is really similar to pitting yourself against the odds. You are gambling that not only will you win out over stress, fear, hunger and fatigue, but that the mail will arrive on time, the copier will not break, the other person is not out sick, and that the tire will not go flat as you race to your 8:00 o’clock meeting. When you make it, you probably feel high, euphoric, successful and incredibly competent. These are intense feelings, much more so than the quiet calm of satisfaction produced when the project is completed early.
Waiting until the last minute to start a difficult task can also be used as a defense for poor performance. You can always claim that it would have been better if there was more time. (The report would have been more comprehensive if you had been given more time to do it. ) It can shield you from the consequences that you expect to occur after the project is completed. For example, not accepting a high visibility special assignment will shield you from the consequences of a) being in the limelight and possibly failing or b) doing well and being offered more challenge.
This could take the form of a new position as the office manager, a relocation or a new set of circumstances that may be frightening. If you are not feeling up to the rigorous standards that you have set for success, or are trying to live up to others have set that the expectations for your performance, delay can be used as a means of self-protection. When you find yourself blocked, unable to start a task and you have tried everything else, ask yourself: “Is there anything, no matter how small, that I am willing to do? ” When you find that small thing, you are no longer procrastinating.