20% of people identify themselves as chronic procrastinators, but we all have tasks at work that we put off. In fact, I procrastinated writing this introduction as long as possible! It’s easy to give into the temptation of procrastination, but below are six ways you can get more done in your day.
Why do we procrastinate?
We all put things off until later that could easily be done now — but why? Here are some of the most common reasons people procrastinate, according to Psychology Today
We’re avoiding pain or fear
If we put things off, they can’t go wrong, right? Many people put off the things they dread doing because they want to avoid the potential pain, fear, or embarrassment they could face if their task fails. Maybe we procrastinate writing that blog post because we’re afraid it won’t perform well. Maybe we avoid doing monthly reports because we’re worried about the results. Whatever the reason, avoiding pain and fear is a reason for procrastinating that’s difficult to overcome.
We can’t make a decision
Some people procrastinate because they struggle with decision-making. I know that I have certainly faced this problem when it’s time to select images for blog articles. What if I can’t decide on an appropriate picture and I end up searching all day? Sometimes my brain thinks it’s better to not even start the task than to face the prospect of making a decision.
We’re too optimistic with our time
Chronic procrastinators don’t necessarily struggle with time management more than anyone else. They just have a more optimistic view of their time than others. They tend to tell themselves lies such as, “I’ll feel more like doing this tomorrow” or “My work is better when I’m under pressure.”
6 Ways to Stop Procrastinating
1. Put it on your calendar
Don’t just promise yourself you’ll do something—put it in writing. If you put a task on your calendar, you are much more likely to complete it on time. You can even set reminders for yourself. For example, a few times a week I have a scheduled check-in with my team. It would probably be easy during a particularly busy day to blow off the meeting, but because I put it on my calendar, it’s something I feel I must do.
Is the prospect of working on one task for an extended period of time so daunting that it’s preventing you from starting? Try timing yourself in small chunks. The Pomodoro Technique is a time management technique that builds in short, scheduled breaks during your work time.
3. Build accountability
Each day here at Delta we have a team huddle that includes everyone. As part of the huddle, we each go around and say one thing we pledge to get done that day. Speaking our daily goals out loud to the group helps us build accountability, because we’ve set expectations among our coworkers for what we plan to accomplish.
4. Use a to-do list
Be careful with this one—41% of to-do list items are never completed, according to The Busy Person’s Guide to the Done List. To-do lists can be tricky, because you run the risk of focusing on the urgent rather than the important. At the same time, the satisfaction of checking items off your list can encourage you to get them done, even the ones you dread doing.
5. Break down the task
Some people avoid starting tasks because they see them as large, foreboding projects that need to get done. By breaking down one large task into many smaller parts, you can more easily see a light at the end of the tunnel, making starting each task easier as you get closer to the finish line.
6. Minimize distractions
This one might be the toughest of all to overcome. What is the thing that distracts you most in your day? Is it checking your phone? Put it away for 55 minutes every hour. Is it reading every email that pops up? Turn off the automatic notifications. Is it coworkers talking all around you? Get some headphones and listen to music or an online white-noise generator. For the extremely distracted, there’s the Cold Turkey that lets you block apps and websites.
Procrastinating can actually make you more stressed out — so use some of these tips to be more productive and get more done in your day!