“You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again.” – Benjamin Franklin
The most amazing of ideas get sometimes lost in the darkness of inaction; they live and die in our heads – this is death by procrastination.
At one point or another, we’ve all been guilty of over-thinking and waiting for that “perfect” moment to come and sweep us off our feet in a burst of inspiration and action. But deep down, we all know that such moments don’t exist and after awhile, great ideas simply die and we let them.
Procrastination has become a way of life especially with technology and social media. It’s a bad habit and it’s becoming a little bit too easy to procrastinate. Now, it’s becoming – when the going gets tough, the (not-so) tough get going onto Facebook.
Today, we attempt to explore the reasons why we procrastinate. From these, we offer a few simple solutions you can follow to help overcome procrastination. When reading this, you might find that these solutions are not new to you, but it’s often the simple things that we overlook.
So why do we procrastinate? And why do we need to know why?
Before attempting to solve a problem, any problem, it must first be defined. Without properly understanding the problem and the cause of the problem, trying to solve it is like blindly cutting vegetables without knowing what you’re cooking.
So, try to find the root cause of your procrastination. Here’s a few common roots that, we find, causes procrastination:
1. The Pursuit of Perfection
We are sometimes guilty of trying to do a task too well.
So even before attempting a given task, we plan and we project possible outcomes. This is sometimes overdone, up to a point where almost every scenario is predetermined and sometimes imagined. When there are so many pitfalls to watch out for and so many things to do, it’s easy to get stuck in a state of paralysed inaction.
The pursuit of perfection (especially the idea of attaining perfection) is a dangerous one. It makes it hard to move on from planning to executing.
2. Being Overwhelmed
The feeling of being overwhelmed can be paralysing.
Big problems, complex situations and unfamiliar predicaments can easily escalate in our minds. We think of everything that needs to be done, all the resources required, all the people that need to get involved, then get overwhelmed, frustrated, tired and get absolutely nothing done (except maybe a headache).
While there are many more factors that can cause procrastination, we chose to focus on the two above and we’ve come up with a few simple suggestions to help you get started.
Here’s our guide to the 8 ways to overcome procrastination
1. Focus on what you can do now
When overwhelmed, it can feel like there is so many things to do, so many layers of people to go through and so very little time. So, to avoid a mental breakdown and take a break from (over) thinking, we surf the net, go on Facebook and generally, do everything and put off getting started.
Instead of doing this, stop and write down exactly what you need to do. Create a to-do-list with action items with specific deadlines.
If some parts of the work requires another party’s involvement (like a manager’s approval or input from another department), set a reminder to follow this up at a later time or date. This way, you don’t have to waste time worrying and you can focus on the next task at hand.
2. Ideas are nothing without action
Remind yourself that ideas amount to nothing if they are stuck in your head.
An idea that comes to your mind should be acted on immediately or you risk forgetting about it in the clutter of your day.
If you can’t do something about it there and then, write it down and set a reminder to look at it later.
3. Recognise completed work, then move on
If you were to draw a picture, how will you know when it’s completed? Details can always be added and the drawing can always be refined.
Like a picture, your pursuits/projects can linger on for far longer if you can’t recognise that it is finished.
So, write down a measurable vision of your ideal outcome and with success factors. Once you have this in writing, it’ll be easier to recognise that your work is done and you can move on.
Also, understand that it is okay to fall short of perfection. Spending too much time perfecting a project means that time that could be better spent on another project is sacrificed. It has to be asked if the time you spent equates to the output you deliver.
4. Disconnect from technology
Be it a long shower or sitting on the toilet bowl (sometimes longer than necessary), the best ideas seem to come from the toilet. Maybe it’s not the toilet but the disconnection from technology. The best ideas seem to come from day dreams and especially when you’re not actively thinking about it.
When you find yourself drained with inaction and a lack of inspiration, disconnect from the distractions of technology – take a walk, do the dishes, mop the house. Take sometime to do everything but the task at hand, you’ll be surprised by the ideas that suddenly come when you’re not actually thinking about it.
5. Break tasks up into small actionable items
“When eating an elephant take one bite at a time.” – Creighton Abrams
Complex tasks can be overwhelming and we tend to make it much bigger in our heads. It helps to break these complex tasks into small action items that are easy to do. Do the small tasks well and consistently enough, you’ll find a much bigger and complex task completed well.
6. Don’t wait for the perfect moment – start now!
Many of us are guilty of waiting for a perfect moment to do something. We wait to be in the mood, the right time, for the right resources to come our way or some other excuse to delay starting something.
These moments don’t exist. You will have to force yourself to get started, especially when you don’t feel like it. Over time, a habit of taking action regardless of circumstance will develop. Getting started with small steps will also bring much needed momentum to get you through to completion.
If you are guilty of waiting for a perfect moment, after reading this article, start on something that you’ve been putting off!
7. Improve your work environment and change it up
Take a look at your work station/environment. Is it designed to help you get things done or is it marred with distractions?
Identify the items that take your focus away. Keep distractions such as your smart phone/tablets locked in a drawer for focus time – perhaps 30 to 45 minutes. During your focus hours, avoid checking emails, messages or your phone as it can destroy your train of thought and impede progress.
Also, consider changing environments every now and then to get inspired. If your work allows for it, go to a cafe or a nice park to get fresh perspective.
8. Spend time with positive action oriented people
‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.’ – Jim Rohn
Surround yourself with positive, action-oriented people. These people will inspire you to get work done instead of complaining. Discuss and bounce off ideas from these people and contribute positive influences to them as well.
Identify a friend, a community or even your spouse to share your goals with, what you plan to do and be accountable for them. Over time, surrounding yourself with positivity will have a profound effect in your life and you will find yourself procrastinating less.
At the same time, try to avoid chronically negative people. They can drain you of positive energy and will enable you with sympathy when you complain.
With all points considered, it is also important to understand that procrastination is a natural part of life and that everyone faces in one form or another. There is no point beating yourself up and guilt tripping yourself into action.
When you find yourself stuck, take a step back, relax and try our suggestions in a calm and measured manner. Like a bad habit, it will take time to kick the bad habit of procrastination. Stick with it long enough, you’ll find yourself a lot more productive.
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