Everyone knows it and has done it. We have all said sentences such as: on Monday I will start the diet or tomorrow I will clean the house or I will do that later when I am in a better mood. Putting things off until the last moment is also a form of procrastination. We purposely delay things that we have to do and put them off, even though we know that we might not be better off by doing it. It is not like the task will suddenly become more attractive, faster or easier just because we will do it later. Distracting ourselves with meaningless and/or pleasurable activities improves our mood. Positive consequences thus increase the probability that the avoidance will continue. Negative consequences of procrastination could be criticism from others, self-criticism, loss of respect, the tasks keep mounding up thus more stress and the need to increase working hours. In worse case scenarios the productivity and efficacy levels are decreased due to excessive procrastination at work, which can lead to the loss of promotions or even loss of employment.
What can you do? Write a ‘To Do’ list of the tasks and the goals you need to work on. Prioritize the list of tasks from the most important to the least important.When prioritizing, make sure that you are not reducing the level of priority because it is easy for you to dismiss something as unimportant or not urgent. Break down big tasks into small and more manageable components. The entire task might look overwhelming but small parts are easier to do and will give you a sense of gratification much faster. Self-efficacy will also increase with the completion of each successful sub-task. When you have more confidence in your abilities to complete a task successfully, your need to avoid the task will decrease. Before making your schedule, think of the amount of time that you will need to complete each task. Being bonded by time focuses your attention on the goal, thus it will reduce your procrastination tendencies.
Start scheduling but consider that sometimes it is easier to get rid of the very worst task first, taking it off like a band-aid and then focusing and enjoying the rest of the tasks more. On the other hand, you can also choose to energize and motivate yourself by starting the day with a fun and easy task and then switching to the task you really want to avoid. Some people find it easier to plan the amount of time that they want to spend on the avoided task every day. Use the time of the day in which you are at optimum functioning level to do the most important tasks. Others schedule a certain amount of time; e.g. 10 minutes of the dreaded task in between each of the other more pleasurable and liked tasks. This could only work if you are good in sticking to plans and have no problem changing your attention, focus and concentrating on various things simultaneously. Choose the manner which suites you best. Stick to the time that you scheduled for each task and in that way you will complete your goal on time.
Be aware that sometimes a rich stimuli environment can distract you from your schedule. It is without a doubt that talking to colleagues or surfing the net is more fun than doing a boring task. Try to limit the distractions around you so you could minimize the attraction of procrastinating activities. If you feel overwhelmed or a little unsettled, take a minute to gather your thoughts and rest. Breathe deeply, drink maybe a glass of water and go to the bathroom and wash your face. Relaxation is important too but make sure you will not fall into the trap again. Moderation is the key. At all times keep an eye on the schedule and the timing. Calm yourself and try to motivate yourself to get back to the action plan with maybe a promise of reward at the end of the day. Choose something that will make you feel good and reward you for finishing your tasks and not putting them off. Small achievements are also achievements that need to be rewarded. A step at a time will help you get motivated and energized to carry out your next goals.
Once in a while take the time to reflect on your plan. Is it reasonable? Are you demanding too much of yourself? Is it helping you to reduce procrastination? Are you achieving your deadlines? Do you need to adjust your plan or deadlines? Do you need to add or reduce stages/ tasks? What can you improve on to better suit your needs? Do you need to delegate or ask for assistance? Answer the questions and make changes accordingly. Putting things off is a bad habit but it can be changed with time, effort, patience, a good organized system and a little self-discipline.