7.5 min readPublished On: August 5, 2022Categories: How Tos

Procrastination is the action of delaying or postponing something by focusing on other things. Those things may be important, but they’re usually trivial. You know you have to wash the dishes so you suddenly become obsessed with reorganising the cutlery drawer. By the time you’re done everything is perfectly in its place…as long as it’s clean. The dirty stuff is still in the sink, and now you’re out of time! You’ve got an important piece of work to finish, but your attention is suddenly consumed by the emails in your inbox – don’t they all need filing? Immediately.

No, they don’t. But you have a task you’re trying to avoid, so you’re busying yourself with nonsense tasks. 

We’ve all done it. I’m sure we will all continue to do it. I’m particularly good at procrastinating when it comes to writing blogs! It’s amazing what I’ve tried to do in order to put off writing this one. In fact, it’s been weeks but after a stern talking to from my coach, I’m here, I’m finally writing, and boy, does it feel good!! Figuring out what to write about proved pretty simple for once – how to beat procrastination!

What Is Procrastination?

So, procrastination is essentially a fear-based behaviour. It’s easier to avoid rather than do as for some reason, it’s too hard or too painful, or at least that is what we perceive. The harsh reality is that once we get on with it, it’s never as bad as what we think it might be, and it’s almost likely easier than we thought. 

Other reasons to avoid doing something might be; people may laugh, I’ll be judged, it/I won’t be good enough, it/I might be rejected – you get the gist. And, I’ll be honest, several of these have come up for me when beginning to write blogs or post on Instagram and it’s completely natural to feel this way.

But wouldn’t it be better to avoid procrastination and achieve our goals and dreams, instead of avoiding our own success? Here’s how to beat procrastination and why we procrastinate to begin with…

Why Do We Procrastinate?

Procrastination isn’t a new wonder; it comes from the Latin procrastinare which means ‘to put off for tomorrow’ and has been around for thousands of years. Procrastination is a way we sabotage ourselves, and it’s not just about delaying the boring tasks or doing the less enjoyable things, it can actually run much deeper, and we aren’t always aware that we’re doing it.

One of the biggest reasons for procrastination is ‘I don’t have time’ or ‘I’m too busy’ but realistically, you could quite possibly have found the time if you didn’t spend so long thinking of reasons not to do it. And let’s face it, as much as we could look at your time management skills and find areas of improvement, unless you are willing to do these tasks, you are unlikely to no matter how efficient you are elsewhere.

So, why do we procrastinate?

There are several schools of thought. One is from Dr J Ferrari, Professor of Psychology at De Paul University in Chicago who has spent most of his career researching procrastination and the reasons behind why we do it:

  1. Thrill-seeking – we’re leaving it to the last minute, so we experience the euphoric rush
  2. Indecisiveness – absolves us from making the wrong decision or taking responsibility
  3. Avoidance – fear of failure or success; we’re worried about what other people think

Whilst I can recollect times where all of the above have applied, my biggest reason for procrastination would have to be the latter; the fear of failure and worrying about what people think.

How To Beat Procrastination

The good news is that there are ways we can beat procrastination. I mean, the tasks aren’t going to go away, are they? The sooner we crack on with them, the better.

Start By Acknowledging You’re Procrastinating

They say admitting you have a problem is the hardest step. It’s true of a great many things in life, and procrastination is one of them. Often we feel – usually very strongly! – that we’re not procrastinating at all. We’re actually doing something essential. Something that can’t possibly wait. Something that will help with the other thing

We become spin masters. We’ll tell ourselves whatever is necessary to justify avoiding doing that thing. And we’re often so good at it that if someone point blank tells us we’re procrastinating, we’ll think them foolish and argue to the point to death.

Afterall, a good argument is great way to waste some more time while avoiding doing that thing,

Learn to recognise when you’re procrastinating and admit to yourself that, actually, you just don’t want to do that thing, and you’re finding excuses to avoid it!  

Make A To Do List And Assess The Task You’re Avoiding

Once you’ve acknowledged the proverbial elephant in the room, weigh up the pros and cons of doing the task. As basic as it sounds, ask yourself: is it really necessary? Start with a to-do list. I like to write all of my jobs/tasks down, and then I’ll put them in priority order. There are a couple of rules here. First, you can only add genuine tasks to your To Do list, not made up things to avoid the stuff you don’t want to do. Second, you need to objectively assess the list and put things in the order they really need to get done in; you can’t just put that thing right to the bottom! 

Delegate Where Possible

Wherever you can, delegate. I love to delegate, and why not? If you can find someone who will enjoy doing a task you hate, chances are they’ll do it a lot better and a lot quicker.

Remove Your Distractions

Remove any distractions – this is a big one for me, the main distraction being my iPhone. In fact, I’ve just caught myself looking at it because a headline popped up on screen! Turn it over, put it on silent, remove it from your vision. And certainly, do not open Instagram or some other social app, before you know at least an hour will have passed!

Give Yourself A Boost

Start at the top and work your way down. If that thing is at the top, you might want to give yourself a little boost to get you going. This will work differently for different people, but for me, I like to start working down the list by doing something quick and easy so that I can cross one thing off my list. It gives me a sense of achievement and a little boost. Then I’ll begin on the one I’m trying to avoid.

Create A Task Time Block

Set a timer – I know this works well for a lot of people. Set a timer for 20-30 minutes to focus on the task at hand and then give yourself a break, then repeat. It’s amazing how quickly you can chip away at things and how quickly you can get the job done in this manner.

I’ll break my list down into sections and aim to finish a certain amount within the relevant time frame. More often than not, once I realise it’s not as bad as I thought and I’m actually enjoying it, I’ll continue past my expectation and possibly even complete it. Then I give myself the biggest pat on my back and reward myself with something lovely (I’m not talking about a new handbag, just something nice like a walk in the park or an episode on Netflix etc.).

A Change Is As Good As A Break

Being in the right environment is key. If you can take yourself to a place which is conducive to getting the task at hand completed, then do so. Some things can be hard enough at the best of times, so if there are children running around or you can hear additional noise, take yourself off somewhere.

Buddy Up

And finally, if all else fails, rope in a friend or colleague and tackle it together. There is power in numbers after all.

One Last Thing…

Procrastination is a thing, we all do it, some of us are better at it than others ?

But, all that procrastination does is delay the inevitable. If we’ve got to do something, we might as well get on with it, cross it off the list, feel the amazing sense of achievement and let ourselves get on with the life we enjoy.

What are you going to start with?