“Procrastination makes easy things hard, and hard things harder.” — Mason Cooley
When was the last time you procrastinated on something? Maybe it was within the last week, or maybe you are procrastinating right now. Eventually, you have to face the task and rush to reach the due date before the clock does. While the task is not desirable in the first place, leaving it until the last minute just makes it worse. Fortunately, procrastination can usually be avoided. Let’s take a look at what causes procrastination and what to do about it.
Reason: The task is difficult.
Many times, we are presented with a task that is so difficult or large that we are overwhelmed. Instead of starting it, we push it off with comfort in mind since the due date is out in the distance. Before we know it, the due date is quickly approaching.
Solution: Take small steps.
If the problem is that the task is too difficult or time-consuming, but you know how to do it, break the task up into smaller pieces. When looking the whole picture, it’s easy to get intimidated. If we break it up into small steps, it becomes much more manageable. We can start on the task just by working on it for 10-15 minutes each day and slowly build your way up. If you don’t know how to do the task, contact someone who does, or search for the answer yourself. Once you know how to do the task, begin with a plan to work on the task over time.
Reason: We want the outcome to be perfect.
Another reason we might not start on a task is because we don’t have a perfect idea, an abundance of energy, or the perfect conditions. We might be afraid that someone will judge us for our mistakes and imperfections, and that we will come across as foolish.
Solution: Work on it anyways.
Perfection is ironic because often times we don’t work on a task because we are afraid it won’t be perfect. In reality, you are even further away from perfection if you stop yourself so just work on the task and improvement will come over time. For more information on this solution click here.
Reason: We find a different task more enjoyable.
Often times, we would rather just do a different task that is more entertaining. We tell ourselves that we will just go online for a few minutes and before we know it, a few hours have passed by and we have made no progress on the task.
Solution: Take breaks, and indulge with control.
If the task takes a long time, it is helpful to have breaks so we can rest physically and mentally. If we take no breaks, we are prone to getting distracted, and not doing as well. Try setting a timer for 15-20 minutes, and then taking a five-minute break. It is important to set a timer for both the time working on the task and the time on the break to avoid burnout or distraction.
Reason: The task doesn’t have a due date.
Sometimes we work on tasks that don’t have a due date. Perhaps it is a personal errand you would like to do or a goal you would like to accomplish. Not having a due date can be helpful in terms of flexibility, but when it keeps getting postponed it can become problematic.
Solution: Make a due date.
Due dates are very powerful when it comes to productivity and getting things done. Even if it’s just a task that relates to a personal goal of yours, create a due date for yourself. Ask yourself when you would like to have the task finished by, make it a reasonable amount of time, and set it! When we set due dates, it helps put the task into perspective and allows us to make a timeline of our progress.
Reason: We underestimate how long the task will take us.
Perhaps we think the task can be done rather quickly, so we push it along and convince ourselves that we will have time to work on it later. Once we begin to work on the task, it might take us longer than we expected or we might run into unexpected obstacles, lengthening the amount of time needed in order to complete the task.
Solution: Start earlier.
If we think the task will not take very long to do, then start the task earlier. Give yourself enough time to be able to handle unexpected obstacles that might come up. If you can start the task earlier in the day, that’s even better. By starting earlier in the day, you are allowing more time to work on the task. It can be easy to work on other tasks, and by the time you get started it’s already late into the day and fatigue starts to set in. By starting early in the day, you lessen the chances of interruptions and give yourself more time.
Reason: We lost the purpose.
If we have a task that is ongoing, difficult, or tedious, we might begin to forget why we are even doing the task, or what the point is behind it all. When we forget the purpose, we lose motivation which is a driving factor in helping us achieve our task.
Solution: Find the why.
Figure out why you are doing the task. Why is it important? What will I gain from it? How will this task help me improve and become a better version of myself? When asking yourself these questions, you may even learn that the task is busy work, and you don’t need to do it at all. If the task is important, find the why and let that fuel your ambition to get the job done.
Reason: We have made it a habit.
Perhaps you have been procrastinating regularly for quite some time now. Maybe you have even called yourself a procrastinator and affirmed the idea in your mind, making it more of a reality.
Solution: Change the habit
Fortunately, habits can be changed. It can take some time, but if we identify that we are procrastinating, and start doing things earlier on a regular basis, over time the habit will shift in your favor and you will become less of a procrastinator. Better yet, over time you may even rid of your procrastination habit completely!
Procrastination is not a one-time challenge. Each time there is a task to be done, procrastination tempts us as an option. By using the solutions we have covered, and consciously cultivating a good work ethic, we can overcome procrastination and climb the successful steps even faster.
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