Over the past several weeks, we’ve been picking apart procrastination as a concept and how it tends to manifest. To wrap up our discussion, we wanted to share a few ways that you might be able to greatly reduce your and your team’s tendencies to procrastinate so that more can be accomplished.
Procrastination is Unhelpful, But Why is It So Hard to Stop?
We’ve touched already on the various ways and reasons that people procrastinate, but there’s still the question that makes it all the more frustrating: despite the frustration it brings, why is it that we can’t seem to resist the urge to put off our tasks?
According to studies coming out of Florida State University, our capacity for self-control is a finite resource. The closer we get to running out, the more apt we are to procrastinate as a coping mechanism. Additionally, if we have negative feelings about a given task, we seek to protect ourselves from this task through the various forms that procrastination takes through a phenomenon known as the avoidance loop.
Even if we have consciously committed to completing a given task, our subconscious brain will do gymnastics in order to justify not doing it if there’s any reason we feel negatively about it. If you’ve ever caught yourself playing the, “In order to do this, I have to do that first, and…” card, that’s the avoidance loop at work.
So, the issue seems to be one of managing our mental energy reserves and how they are influenced by various factors, internal and external alike. Unfortunately, for most, a not-inconsequential part of the workday will likely exhibit these factors. It doesn’t matter whether a process is particularly tedious or it puts someone in close quarters with someone they just don’t enjoy spending time around or any other reason—any source of discomfort is enough to subconsciously procrastinate, which will require some conscious effort to counteract for the long haul.
How to Break Your Procrastination Habits
Identify what Motivates You
If there was to be a fundamental opposite to procrastination, it would have to be motivation. This makes it valuable to first identify what it is about the task at hand that makes it important—and important to you, personally—that it gets done. Maybe a successful project means more opportunities for internal growth in the business, potentially leading to better pay or benefits. Maybe completing the task now will help make all the other tasks on your to-do list easier.
Whatever motivation you find, focus on that and get started on the task you were hesitant about. Once this hurdle is cleared, it will probably get much easier to make progress.
Overcome the Avoidance Loop
So, back to the avoidance loop, we need to figure out how to stop adding or prioritizing tasks before the one we’re trying to avoid. Fortunately, there are a few simple steps that we can take toward this goal:
- Break down your goal into the steps that will actually help you in meeting it. Let’s say you needed to get a few hundred mailers sent out to clients or prospects before the end of day. Your steps might be to confirm that you have sufficient postage and stationery, to reschedule any non-pressing meetings or tasks so your schedule is clear, and to find an area where you can work without interruption.
- Figure out the root of your avoidance loop. Now that you have an actionable plan, try to catch yourself slipping into your habits so you can understand them a bit better. Try writing out what is preventing you from accomplishing the steps you’ve outlined to identify the excuses that power the avoidance loop. In terms of our example, you may catch yourself saying that you can’t confirm the postage needed until you have the final update to the contact list, or that you can’t find a place without interruption because someone else may need that space as well.
- Reframe your avoidance so it becomes an action. It’s almost laughable, but all you really need to do at this point is to adjust your steps to address the source of your avoidance and turn it into an opportunity. In doing so, you’re simply making your process and its steps more specific, which actually gives you a more effective plan to follow. Where our example is concerned, this may result in steps like acquiring the latest list before confirming your postage needs, rescheduling what you can, and to reserve the space to work for the time you’ll need or confirm what the rest of the team plans.
Form a Better Habit
One of the nice things about habits is that you don’t really need to think about them…you kind of just do them instinctually. If you can make these practices part of your general workplace routine, you’ll be less apt to procrastinate. Plus, if this habit takes the form of a set process, you’ll be less apt to let your mind start wandering towards a new avoidance loop—doing that task next in series will just seem natural.
We Can Provide the Tools that Make Your Tasks Even Easier
As one of the best options in New Jersey for business IT services, we’re here to help you make even better use of your time in the office by ensuring that your technology is ideally suited to your needs and maintained to be reliable. Give us a call today at (646) 741-1166…and if you start procrastinating making that call, refer to the steps above!