10,000 Reasons Why We Procrastinate and How To Combat It.
Ready to go down this rabbit hole?
We’re looking for distractions aren’t we? Postponing the inevitable because we don’t want to do something. Either because it is difficult, lengthy or challenging and we don’t know where to start. Or potentially because we’re not confident in our abilities to address the task. Sometimes, it’s just because it doesn’t seem that interesting or fun.
We like fixing things, coming up with solutions, designing things that look great but these are tangible, we can see them in action. We know that if we do X, Y will immediately (or imminently) happen. But it isn’t always like that. Sometimes we have to complete tasks where instant gratification isn’t offered. It is the support act to the main event. Essential nonetheless but nowhere near offering the same glory.
So we put it off.
Except, now you’ve cleared your desk of all those important priorities and the frog is now staring at you directly in the face. So why am I on Google finding out the origins of the word “clue” when I was looking up synonyms for “important” just moments ago?
(“clew” - the word for a ball of yarn, derived from Greek mythology where Theseus escapes the minotaur’s labyrinth by laying down string to follow his path in, so he could find his way back out. I know! Interesting, right?)
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Sometimes it’s beneficial to let your mind wander. To not enclose it in an isolated structure but to let it mull the problem over and see the solution more clearly.
It’s the taking the eye of the prize that is the problem.
So how do you make sure you stay on track?
Why Are You Succumbing To Distractions?
Firstly, understand why you’re procrastinating. What is it about this particular task that you don’t want to do? Is it because it’s going to take too long? Is it because you need help with it? Is it because it’s really complicated and you don’t know where to start? Is it because it’s boring or doesn’t stimulate your brain in the way that other activities do?
The point is, you have to work out the why first. Then tackle the what (that’s also a metaphor for best marketing practice but we can discuss that another time.) Find out why you don’t want to do something and then work out the importance of said task. What is the outcome if you do it? What is the outcome if you don’t do it? Both are important to address. What the end goal of the task is and how important it is to the business, are the questions that will reveal the answer to your problems of procrastination.
If it’s not important - why are you doing it?
If it’s a nice to have - do you have the time now? And if so get on and do it!
If it’s important to the business but you’re not sure where to start - start small - write down the things you need to do and then go through them methodically.
If it’s important but is going to take up a lot of time - look at where your quick wins are. What can you do now that won’t take long and is fairly easy to do? Then look at the tasks that are going to take longer and break them down into easier, more manageable chunks.
If you don’t understand the task or aren’t confident in your abilities to complete it - start with the bits that you can do, try to work out the bits you think are difficult, think about what you would do even if you're not sure and then ask someone who could give you more information. Or someone you could use a sounding board for solutions or information.
And finally, Set. A. Deadline. We cannot stress this enough. If you don’t set a deadline you will never get around to doing it.
Starting Seems To Be The Hardest Word
Starting is the difficult part. Once you’ve got over that hurdle the rest just happens. Aim to get it done, not perfect. Perfection is the death of all productivity. You can’t perfect anything that isn’t visible so start small if you need to, take it one step at a time but START.
Perhaps the inspiration isn’t coming to you, perhaps you’re tired or feeling particularly unmotivated or overwhelmed - don’t force it (you'll only procrastinate more) but do work on something towards it. This is the equivalent of the to-do list to start a difficult Monday. It helps to focus the mind and break down the task into easier ones and tricks your brain into forgetting why you are avoiding it. Once you start, you’ll find the motivation along the way.
Get It Done, Not Finished
There is always something that can be done, even if you’re too shy to ask for help. Write the pressing questions down and do your own research. Or email them to someone if you’re not comfortable talking to them directly.
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We like to follow the mantra, "Get It Done, Not Perfect" to kick start the process. It feels less intimidating, less final, less pressure.
Even the most successful people have been in this position so don’t beat yourself up but DO START. You’ll be surprised how far you get once you take those first steps.
How do you snap out of your procrastination? Or do you find it therapeutic and part of the process? Perhaps it’s important to you and you don’t buy into procrastination being a bad thing? Let us know (tangent or not) in the comments.