Overcoming the Habit of Delaying Important Tasks
It’s Friday afternoon and the clock is ticking. You’re working furiously to complete a task before the five o’clock deadline, while silently cursing yourself for not starting it sooner.
How did this happen? What went wrong? Why did you lose your focus?
Well, there were the hours that you spent re-reading emails and checking social media, the excessive “preparation,” the coffee breaks, and the time spent on other tasks that you could have safely left for next week.
Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone!
Procrastination is a trap that many of us fall into. In fact, according to researcher and speaker /community/BookInsights/TheProcrastinationEquation.phpPiers Steel, 95 percent of us procrastinate to some degree. While it may be comforting to know that you’re not alone, it can be sobering to realize just how much it can hold you back.
In this article and video, we look at why it happens, and we explore strategies for managing and prioritizing your workload more effectively.
Is Procrastination the Same as Being Lazy?
Procrastination is often confused with laziness, but they are very different.
Procrastination is an active process – you choose to do something else instead of the task that you know you should be doing. In contrast, laziness suggests apathy, inactivity and an unwillingness to act.
Procrastination usually involves ignoring an unpleasant, but likely more important task, in favor of one that is more enjoyable or easier.
But giving in to this impulse can have serious consequences. For example, even minor episodes of procrastination can make us feel guilty or ashamed. It can lead to reduced productivity and cause us to miss out on achieving our goals.
If we procrastinate over a long period of time, we can become demotivated and disillusioned with our work, which can lead to depression and even job loss, in extreme cases.
How to Overcome Procrastination
As with most habits , it is possible to overcome procrastination. Follow the steps below to help you to deal with and prevent procrastination:
Step 1: Recognize That You’re Procrastinating
You might be putting off a task because you’ve had to re-prioritize your workload. If you’re briefly delaying an important task for a genuinely good reason, then you aren’t necessarily procrastinating. However, if you start to put things off indefinitely, or switch focus because you want to avoid doing something, then you probably are.
You may also be procrastinating if you:
- Fill your day with low-priority tasks.
- Leave an item on your To-Do list for a long time, even though it’s important.
- Read emails several times over without making a decision on what to do with them.
- Start a high-priority task and then go off to make a coffee.
- Fill your time with unimportant tasks that other people ask you to do, instead of getting on with the important tasks already on your list.
- Wait to be in “right mood,” or wait for the “right time” to tackle a task.
Take our self-test quiz, Are You a Procrastinator? , to identify how much you procrastinate.