A survey commissioned by Professional Organizers in Canada revealed that of the 80% of Canadians who say they are disorganized, the majority appear to struggle most with their ability to organize time. There are a whole host of behaviours that can sabotage effective time management such as perfectionism, an inability to delegate (often related to perfectionism), stress, distraction and our topic for today, procrastination.
I like this definition of procrastination: to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done. It’s the “should be done” that resonates with me. Delaying an activity that you know is important and urgent enough to be handled at a specific time in favour of something less urgent, less important and generally more pleasurable. It’s the triumph of the limbic system.
What’s interesting is that activities that on their own might not sound like much fun, become preferable alternatives when the task we ought to be working on is difficult, complicated, or uncomfortable for some reason. It could be that we simply don’t enjoy the task, or that we are not sure how to tackle it and therefore just getting started is a challenge. In these cases, folding laundry or washing the car all of a sudden look good. My son and I went for a walk today for over an hour. I have a strong suspicion that it ranked higher than composing his next piece of prose for school. I guess there are some benefits to procrastinating!
If we are lucky enough to be working at something we love, many of our activities will be in line with our goals, and procrastination will naturally be averted. Sometimes it helps to remind ourselves of the connection of seemingly mundane tasks with our higher goals.
For cases where it’s difficult to make that connection, here are five tips to help you prevail over procrastination:
1. Get it over with
If you are dreading a certain task perhaps because it makes you uncomfortable (i.e. cold calling) or is challenging in some way, tackle it first thing. You will eliminate worrying about it and you’re guaranteed to savour the success throughout the rest of a productive day.
2. Dangle a carrot
Rewards are great motivators. Promise yourself an experience you’ll truly enjoy upon completion of the task.
3. Beat the clock
Creating a sense of urgency can be an effective motivator. Set an alarm on your computer or watch and beat the timer. It’s amazing what you can get done when you add a little time pressure.
4. Partner up
Find a supportive partner who is also working on a goal. It doesn’t have to be similar to yours. Agree to discuss both your results at regular intervals. The fear of confessing may just keep you on track.
5. Track it
It takes time to create new habits. Pick one behaviour you want to change and draft a simple table to track not only whether you were successful or not, but how you felt about it. Do this every day for at least a month. This increased awareness will help to keep you focused on the change you wish to make.