Procrastination seldom serves us, but we can overcome it with a combination of enjoyment and rewards, says Victoria O’Farrell.
So where do you start? Well that’s the point – you have to start your project and you have to stop putting off starting it. It’s not rocket science.
The thing is, I know (and so do most of us who procrastinate) that it makes no sense not to start doing the important tasks that need doing, so why do we persist in procrastinating and, more importantly, how do we stop it?
It comes down to the simple fact of whether we enjoy doing the task or not. When we undertake a task that we enjoy it releases endorphins in the brain and we want to do more.
No matter whether it concerns our personal lives, professional ambitions or ultimate dreams and goals, we need to know what our motivators are. When you know these you can set rewards that motivate you.
We are all motivated by our own particular wants, but some of the more common motivators include praise, popularity, security, solving problems or putting detail to a project.
It’s that old adage of eating the ugly frog first, but how EAT THE UGLY FROG FIRST Procrastination seldom serves us, but we can overcome it with a combination of enjoyment and rewards, says Victoria O’Farrell many times have you found the ‘to-do’ list is only full of ugly frogs? So rather than start, you do anything but the to-do list; you make excuses and you find something else to do while convincing yourself that it is more important. You are really only cheating yourself.
A personal perspective
The last task I procrastinated over was updating my website. I had to make tough decisions, ones that might not sit well with others. As popularity is one of my motivators, I know this was why I was procrastinating over this task.
So I gave myself a deadline and knew this task would need a four-hour window broken into two, two-hour sessions. So when I found a two-hour window before the deadline, and felt in the correct frame of mind, I made decisions and phone calls, and updated my website. Job done and, yes, endorphins were released because it was a task I had procrastinated over for too long and I had finally removed it from my to-do list.
Tips to stop putting it off
- Although it may not work for everyone, these are some of useful considerations I mull over when trying to rid my life of procrastination:
- Set the end goal and a due date, but be realistic;
- Determine all the various tasks that need to be completed to reach a goal;
- Give each task a timeframe and stick to it;
- Prioritise the tasks;
- Identify the ‘ugly frogs’ on your priority list and try to rearrange them so that they are not all sitting in one spot as powerful collection of demotivators – too many ugly frogs together will reignite procrastination; and
- If you like a daily to-do list, the clue is in the title, daily – don’t overwhelm the list with so many tasks that you know you can’t complete – this will overwhelm you and invite vacillation back into your day.
An extra tip on to-do lists: consider whether you are a words or images person and choose to populate your list accordingly. This can help to add a bit more motivation to tick them off.
My main tactic requires me to set goals and agree to these goals with my business coach; to hold myself accountable but also have someone else invested in my goals to motivate me when needed.
Of course, you don’t need to hire a business coach to ensure accountability; you could start by setting goals with clear actions to achieve them by a realistic date. Then tell a colleague, partner, manager or someone you can trust to ask you about your progress and hold you to account.
There are also some great books available, as well as online video and articles (a bit like this one). So go on – complete the task and stop procrastinating.
Victoria O' Farrell is managing director at Motivational Voice
Image credit | Getty Images