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How to overcome procrastination

29 May

Most people are guilty of procrastination at work for one of a variety of reasons:

  • The task is difficult or unpleasant so you either don’t want to or don’t know how to do it
  • The task is a small one, it won’t take long and can wait until later
  • The task is huge, it’s difficult to know where to begin
  • The task is low priority, you will do it when you’ve finished more urgent things
  • If you delay the task, it might not need doing at all
  • You don’t want to run out of work; you might look expendable.
  • You do your best work under pressure so let’s wait for the task to become a more urgent matter

To deal with procrastination, focus on the result, not on the process. Think about how satisfying it will be to get that monkey off your back and do this any time you start to feel unmotivated or negative about the task.

If you are tempted to leave the task thinking if you ignore it for long enough it will go away then you are taking a risk. It could suddenly become something that needs top priority and you end up having to start from scratch to get it done quickly – meaning the quality suffers. 

Try the following recommended techniques for overcoming procrastination:

  • Tackle the job you least want to do first thing when you get to work. You will experience a great sense of achievement and the day can only get better after that.
  • If you’re not sure how to do the task, analyse exactly what information you need and where to get it. Seek help now rather than on deadline day when no one is around.
  • The task may be simple but sometimes the unexpected happens and you have no contingency time left. Schedule a start time for the task on your ‘to do’ list and get it done.
  • Break down large tasks into manageable chunks; scheduling each with both a start time and finish time, and tick them off on completion.
  • You may believe you do your best work under pressure, but this attitude can convey an arrogant disregard for others whose input or participation is needed. Set a new earlier, deadline to allow for any unavoidable delays.
  • Promise yourself a reward on completion of the task. This works well if you are a ‘towards’ person – someone who is motivated by moving towards the attainment of targets and goals. This is also known as a pleasure motivator.
  • You may, however, be an ‘away from’ person, in which case, the painful consequences of not completing the task may be so dire that they give you a real kick-start to get it done. To activate this kind of motivator, imagine the worst consequences of not doing the task, and then multiply the seriousness of these consequences 100-fold. Not surprisingly, this is known as a pain motivator.
  • Finally, you could set yourself a challenge. Decide how long you are prepared to work on this task for and then use a digital timer to count down the minutes until it alerts you with a ‘ping’ that your allocated time is up. This works particularly well with mundane tasks such as filing or a housekeeping activity on your PC. You will find yourself competing against the clock to see how much you can achieve before the time goes.

There is an unwritten law around the concept that work expands to fill the time available. However, if you do complete all your workload, this leaves you time to be proactive and seek new opportunities that could enhance your career and professional standing.

Post courtesy of People Alchemy – for access to the Alchemy for Managers online resource visit http://www.peoplealchemy.co.uk/catalyst

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