Procrastination is a battle we all have lost at least once in our lives. If you’re being honest with yourself, it’s probably closer to a battle lost at least once every day. Sometimes you postpone the items on your to-do list when you’re exhausted or in the wake of an unexpected (and really not fake) emergency, but most people are able to create any seemingly justifiable excuse that makes sticking to a schedule challenging.
And the excuses are all the more frequent and so much more justifiable during the festive season. If you’re stuck in the office, wishing you could spend the lovely summer days with family and friends, it’s painful to continue pursuing hectic deadlines, one after the other.
Read: 13 productivity hacks to get more done
Here are a few common rationalisations we’ve all used to trick ourselves when we simply don’t smaak to work, accompanied by nifty tricks to overcome these stalling tactics.
“I really can't do this.”
Said whenever you successfully landed a new project/task/responsibility. At first you’re all chuffed and proud and eager to impress, but once you start tackling the problem, you realise you’re in way over your head…
My manager will think I’m an idiot
I’m going to fail
I’m going to get fired
And that’s when you’re so focussed on messing it all up that you freeze up and tackle something you’re more familiar with.
But that’s a mistake. It makes no sense to surrender to your fears by disregarding the task at hand. Do you really think it’s worse to not do it at all than to do it wrong? It isn’t.
Allow the feelings of doubt to melt away by believing in yourself and visualising your success. Do the best you can do as soon as possible. The sooner you reach a road block, the easier it is to ask for help, the sooner you can get over it and move right along. And just like that, you’re building your own confidence too.
“I don’t like it.”
Tackling an assignment that you have less than zero passion for can be excruciating. The bad news is that you probably aren’t going to wake up one day simply loving something you previously hated. There are certain things you just aren’t attracted to, and that’s okay. We’re individuals with unique likes and dislikes. Remember when you were a kid, and mum made you finish the bland veggies before you could be rewarded with dessert? You do what you must fast and with your nose closed, and sooner rather than later, you’re left with the good stuff to look forward to.
You can get through the not-just-mundane-but-awful-too tasks can become fun if you create a little game for yourself or change things up a bit. Is it possible that there’s a better/quicker/faster/different way to do it? If you don’t like it, perhaps you can at least make it a little more interesting…
“It’s so easy it's boring.”
In other words, it’s so boring. We tend to postpone the seemingly easy tasks first, with the intention of finishing them 5 secs before deadline. Until we realise, it takes a little longer than 5 secs.
Rather, get the research and initial stages of the ‘easy task underway. not only will this leave you with more time to complete the rest of your duties, but you’ll have a well-informed idea of how long this seemingly easy task will really take you.
It also helps to take a step back and consider the completion of this task means to the company as a whole. No, the easy tasks rarely have a direct effect on the company’s bottom line, but if you draw all the right connections, you’ll see that it forms part of a section does affect the bottom line directly. And without your tenacity, there’d be a break in the smooth running of the company.
“There are so many other things I'd rather do.”
Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram. Rihanna, Adele, Sam Smith. One Direction. Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Memes, gifs, all sent via emails and now Whatsapp which has since launched a desktop app that syncs with your phone in real time. All those jokes, and messages and summer beach pics merely a click away… it’s tempting. And we fool ourselves into thinking it’ll only be ‘one pic’ or ‘I’ll read this quickly,’ but it never is.
Once you veritably realise that it never is and never will be ‘just one quick peek’ you can train your mind to treat these distractions as a bad habit. Visualise the consequences of postponing that one big task that lay ahead of you. By associating a bad habit directly with a negative consequence of procrastination, you will be able to say no to distraction a whole lot easier than before.
It’s not a guilty pleasure. And it’s not a healthy distraction. The lack of completing the task is not productive.
Read: 7 productivity habits of highly successful people
“I don’t know where to begin.”
Be honest, you get overwhelmed with large projects just like everyone else. The feeling is often described as being frozen like a deer in headlights. And like the deer, a movement in any direction is the best thing you can do - for everyone.
The tougher the task, the more time consuming it will be be to see it through to completion. Pondering on the complexity of what lies ahead is simply a waste of time - time that you’re running out of. Rather, grab anything and move with it. Place your fears aside and start engaging with the material, piece by piece.
Instead of deciding to finish a section before the end of the day, decide to do as much as you can in one hour. Then, move to something else. Use another hour later in the day to continue the same piece, or tackle a completely different piece of the task. If you force yourself to remained focussed during that hour, you’ll get a lot further than the empty promises of completing unrealistic and overwhelming deadlines.
Also, getting something done gives you more motivation and more confidence to persevere.
Inactivity is the enemy. If you still feel unproductive it might be because your job simply sucks. Rather find a job that will make you feel inspired with one of the 1 000s of vacancies on Careers24.