A little while back I wrote about some of the ways in which procrastination is a healthy device that allows us a little more insight as to how we work, why we work the way we do and some of the ways we an embrace procrastination as a natural part of the workflow process. Intrigued? Don’t wait until later to read it. (You can find it here.)
As much as I believe in the potential for procrastination as a useful tool to work smarter instead of harder, there is a fine line between embracing the practice and being overwhelmed by it. When a procrastination habit becomes harmful, it’s probably time to reconsider the reasons behind it and develop new strategies to make sure we meet our deadlines on time, while still on our terms.
There’s no scientific method to my strategy to combat procrastination, but the solutions I’ve found seem to fall into three categories.
Determining the Problem
A doctor can provide relief for certain symptoms; however, he or she cannot treat you until the root cause of the illness has been determined. In a similar fashion, until you determine why it is that you’re procrastinating on a certain task you cannot begin to find a true solution to your bad habit. You’re simply putting a band-aid over the problem. Do some real soul-searching to try and figure out why you’re doing this to yourself.
Are you suffering from a lack of motivation? Set goals, determine rewards and build patterns into your daily life that help you work towards the completion of your project.
Having trouble keeping focus? Shorten the blocks of time you plan to focus on a certain task. More often than not even committing to just ten minutes of performing a certain task can encourage us to focus on it longer. Still not working? Take notes on your energy levels and amount of focus throughout your day and adjust your schedule accordingly. Try saving the more difficult or complicated tasks that require the most of your attention during the times when your alertness is at its peak.
Deleting the Unnecessary
Often our schedules are overflowing with multiple commitments, social engagements and various other personal and professional activities. It’s easy to procrastinate when feeling overwhelmed or stressed so when yourself letting important things slide because of an overcrowded schedule, it may be time to decide what activities and commitments to delete. Can you get by on less shift at your part-time job? Can you get away with dropping an elective? Any commitments, whether they be personal, professional or academic should be dropped if they become toxic, harmful, unreasonably demanding, unnecessarily involved, not enjoyable, or unhelpful towards your goals. If certain tasks are getting out of hand, see how much work you are able to delegate to colleagues, co-workers and friends, even if the arrangement is only temporary. We all need breathing space.
It’s easy to lose focus when there’s no focus to your schedule or work. Blocking off chunks of time and forcing yourself to commit that time to working on certain tasks may be the actual motivation to get things done. If work is ill-defined or poorly organized, it can be off-putting to try and follow a task through to completion, and sometimes even possible to start. Evaluating energy levels, eliminating distractions, and creating environments conducive to our own unique productivity needs are all great ways to enjoy work more, and dare I say make it easier?
If procrastination is a sickness then it’s one we all suffer from, but hopefully by gaining an understanding as to why we do it, we can gain more insight as how to prevent it but for now, hopefully we’ve found our prescription.
Have you been procrastinating on commenting on this blog? Putting it off can be bad for you and your health. Share your strategies on how you got your life back on schedule by commenting below. Still too shy? I’ll keep your thoughts a secret if you send them to be at firstname.lastname@example.org.