Procrastination and laziness are not the same. With procrastination, you make a conscious choice to do one task over the other, and with laziness, you’re simply choosing to do nothing at all. So, instead of pointing fingers and calling someone lazy, let’s dive into the real scoop: procrastination is non-discriminatory and can affect even the most organized individuals.
Not sure you believe me? Just think back to how many people actually follow through with their New Year’s resolutions or how long someone might wait to file taxes.
The treadmill will be there tomorrow.
I’ll start eating better after the holidays.
April 15 is still a whole week away.
But hey! It’s not just difficult tasks we put off. We are also susceptible to putting off enjoyable tasks, as well. Have a gift card burning a hole in your pocket, or how about those vacation days?
Procrastination, no matter how you slice it, is a trap that anyone can fall victim to. However, even though I might have swayed you to agree that procrastination is an equal-opportunist, it’s still not the most beneficial character trait when working with teams or even individuals that depend on you to hit deadlines and complete tasks that contribute to a greater whole.
Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of procrastination, it’s important to look into how to troubleshoot the symptoms in order to maximize your output in work, life, and everything in between.
Recognize your “why?”
Acknowledging that you are choosing one task over the other is the first step in solving the procrastination epidemic. But why are you making these choices? What is your motivation? Sometimes reminding yourself of why you’re doing what you’re doing, as well as acknowledging the benefits to be gained or the losses you’ll sustain, will help you to get back on track when distractions arise.
Build in a buffer
Deadlines can either be incredibly helpful or debilitating. They either act as a motivator to have tasks completed by a certain time, or they paralyze you with fear with the thought of not having a perfect product done by date XYZ. Regardless of how much we wish time could stand still, it’s one of the few impossibilities in our lifetime.
Building in a buffer by moving your deadline up a day or more is like setting your car’s clock five minutes fast if you’re notoriously late. You’re setting yourself up for success and ensuring your actions don’t serve as an adverse domino effect by setting everyone involved in the project, or task, back more than necessary.
Be honest with your peers
Listen. As much as we want to feel as though all of our accomplishments were achieved on their own accord and without the aid of anyone else, the truth of the matter is there’s no I in TEAM.
Lean on your peers, and if you feel comfortable, ask someone in a higher position that can see the entire scope of your work. Ask them to check in on how you’re handling your current workload and if any adjustments need to occur. The transparency alone will help in alleviating any stress and will make sure your tasks are not pushing your team’s projects behind.
Stop the myth of multitasking
Did you know context switching can devour up to 80% of your productivity? This prompts us to believe that perhaps the smallest changes, not the practice of doing more and more, can reap the most significant rewards. As research begins to indicate how we should lean away from the practice of multitasking, it’s important to intentionally free yourself from distractions, especially during moments when you feel the most productive.
One of my favorite ways to enforce this is to turn my phone on “Do Not Disturb” mode and place it out of reach when I am the most productive and creative, typically between the hours of 7-11 A.M. You might be surprised at how accurate the saying “out of sight, out of mind” is especially when it comes to foregoing the microdoses of phone checking that are sprinkled throughout the day.
Not a believer quite yet? Try this for one full work week and see if your levels of productivity improve. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Acknowledge the elephant in the room
Have you ever heard the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” (Spoiler alert: One bite at a time.)
As briefly touched on earlier, a lot of issues that arise from procrastination stem from the fear of not being able to finish what was started, or not be able to produce a product you’re proud of. But if you can acknowledge the task, and that every good product takes drafts and iterations, the fear will slowly subside.
The most meaningful piece of advice I can give? Eat the elephant and just start. Dip your toe in the water and get acquainted with the task. Slowly but surely you’ll gain momentum and realize the only thing stopping you was the unwarranted fear of the elephant, not the elephant itself.
Do you no longer want to be the reason marketing campaigns are being held up? Do you have a desire to be an engaged employee and the best team player? Awesome! Take small steps in the right direction, and you’ll find yourself out of the weeds before you know it.
Just remember, you’re not alone. Everyone is susceptible to some degree of procrastination; it’s just a matter of how we choose to acknowledge the issue and improve our habits to align with our values.