Without exception all the busy business women I coach, complain about the same one thing. They worry that they procrastinate too much!
Procrastination is a an overused and current word, but it is not laziness. It’s important to first understand what it really is.
Procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished. It is the practice of doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, or carrying out less urgent tasks instead of more urgent ones, thus putting off impending tasks to a later time. Essentially procrastination is the action of delaying or postponing something.
People can be various kinds of procrastinations. Some procrastinate by doing useless things, such as searching for pictures of cute cats on the internet, or look at pictures of celebrities botched plastic surgery! (guilty by the way! ) Others actually accomplish things such as the housework, and the ironing – jobs that they hate but never quite getting to the things they really want to accomplish in life, their most important, long-term goals.
Take a look at this, The Eisenhower Matrix, a graphic that was included in “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” It’s named after Dwight D. Eisenhower, the famously super productive US president. Eisenhower thought that people should spend their time on what was truly important to them.
The most urgent decisions are rarely the most important ones.
– Dwight D Eisenhower
Unfortunately, most people who procrastinate spend little time in the top 2 quadrants. Instead, they mostly hang out in the 2 bottom quadrants, doing things that may be urgent, but are not important. Occasionally, when sheer panic takes over, they take a very brief detour to the top left quadrant.
There are two pieces of information to record: importance and urgency. To get started you can write out this matrix on a piece of paper and start filling in your tasks where appropriate. You’ll notice the top half of the chart shows what tasks you can do, and the bottom half shows what tasks you can delegate.
It’s a simple approach to understanding what tasks need done now, what can be put off to later and what should be delegated to someone else.
Below are 6 simple steps to help you overcome your procrastination:
1) Mind your mind
Whether you think you can or whether you think you cannot is absolutely correct. So channel your thinking to a positive and successful outcome. There are some amazing books to read or listen to. I personally love The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters. alternatively practice active mindfulness – it works it really does. Procrastination is an emotional management problem – so mind your mind.
2) Break down a task into clear and manageable steps.
One reason for procrastination is that the targets we set are often too big and vague, which makes them seem more intimidating and unpleasant. Make it visual – visual cues to trigger your habits and measure your progress. Create checklists, nothing too big as some find an elongated list overwhelming. If this is a struggle, then identify three, just three things that you want to achieve today and reward yourself with something lovely when it’s achieved.
- At the end of each work day, write down the 3 most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. Do not write down more than 3 tasks.
- Prioritize those 3 items in order of their true importance.
- When you arrive tomorrow, concentrate only on the first task. Work until the first task is finished before moving on to the second task.
- Approach the rest of your list in the same fashion. At the end of the day, move any unfinished items to a new list of 3 tasks for the following day.
- Repeat this process every working day.
Its adapted from the Ivy Lee Method that recommends 6 tasks. However I recommend starting with 3 each day for a month and working up to 6.
3) Don’t punish yourself for procrastinating.
There’s no use in punishing yourself. Give yourself a break, as guilt is a trigger for procrastination. Procrastination is not a time management problem it is an emotional management problem, again mind your mind and take some time out to understand why you feel the way you do. Instead of punishing the procrastination, reward the small achievements. Once you’ve completed the task, tick it off the list, make yourself a cuppa, take a brisk walk around the block, phone a friend. C E L E B R A T E!
4) Build on the good habits you already have.
You have got where you are now, by working on the great habits you have developed. Work back to the 3 small mosquito actionable goals and celebrate them. Work with what you have (the 3 goals) and stop getting stressed about the rest.
5) Get in touch with your “future self”.
Think about consequence management, think about what might happen and how you might feel by not doing what you told yourself you’d achieve. Don’t freak yourself out, just look forward along your time line and see what the future looks like. This type of simple visualisation helps focus the mind.
6) Work out why you care about what you are doing.
We procrastinate on tasks that we see as boring or less meaningful. So remind yourself why you are doing something and how it fits in with your ambitions.
By thinking in this way, the long-term benefit of doing your work can overpower the short-term pleasure of distractions.
Finally, have a look at this great Ted Talk by Tim Urban:
I’ve watched it a few time and it has some great messages. Enjoy! 🙂
The Master Fixer
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