11 Causes and Cures for Procrastination
I wanted to write an article on procrastination, but kept putting it off.
The irony is obvious, but what’s not obvious is why I put it off. So I’ll tell you why — because my life (like yours) is jammed full of responsibilities.
We juggle our jobs, children, marriages, aging parents, and household chores. We pay bills, do laundry, clean the house, and mow the lawn. We battle traffic, buy groceries, and negotiate with associates.
And in the midst of all this chaos, we convince ourselves that none of our varied obligations is so pressing as to require our time right now. In other words, procrastination’s short-term benefit is a feeling of control and peace. We tell ourselves, “I’ll do the laundry tomorrow. Right now, my life is right as rain, and I’m taking a break, thank you very much.”
So take a break. There’s nothing wrong with taking time to read a book, watch television, or chill in your favorite chair while the sun sets outside your beautiful picture window. Just be aware that the feel-good benefits of procrastination can quickly erode into panic.
You’re looking for the sweet spot between procrastination and frenzy, the magic pace at which the assembly line of your life runs smoothly.
Here are 11 common causes of procrastination and corresponding tips to help you find the pace you’re looking for:
- Complicated-task anxiety: Break big, complicated tasks into smaller pieces. Complete a starter task, no matter how small.
- Fear of imperfection: Accept that perfection is rarely attainable and seldom necessary. You’re a person, not a robot. Use the 80/20 rule whenever appropriate.
- Indecision: Determine your decision-making criteria, then set a deadline for your decision. Ask a friend to hold you accountable.
- Priority confusion: Distinguish obligations from options. What are you really responsible for? List and prioritize tasks.
- Boredom from minutiae: Automate simple repetitive tasks whenever possible.
- Lack of focus: Minimize distractions. Check e-mail and voicemail only twice per day instead of every 5 minutes. Find a quiet room where you can concentrate. Resist the urge to keep taking breaks.
- Poor organizational skills: Clean your work area. Put tools and utensils in their proper place so you can find them when you need them.
- Laziness: Remind yourself of the consequences of procrastination. Resist the urge to be a couch potato. Try to complete several small tasks to provide a feeling of accomplishment. Reward yourself.
- Lack of energy: Maintain a regular sleep routine. Eat healthy. Exercise regularly. Do not skip breakfast.
- Early morning lag: Before you stop working each day, make a list of the tasks you want to begin first thing the following morning so you can hit the ground running the next day.
- Post-lunch fatigue: Before leaving for lunch, make a list of the things you plan to do when you get back so you can pick up where you left off. Avoid eating a heavy lunch.
In case you’re wondering, I kept putting off this article because I lacked focus. I finally decided to follow my own advice, shut my office door, stop checking email, and make myself write. As usual, starting was the hardest part.
By taking time to understand your own reasons for putting things off and devoting energy to moving forward, you too can beat procrastination.
May 25, 2007 Friday at 10:54 am