Procrastination. Do you ever have one of those tasks that you know needs to get done because it’s going to make your life a whole lot easier, and yet it hangs around like a bad smell, sometimes for weeks on end?
I take pride in always striving to deliver my best, whether writing, speaking, or running a workshop. If I am asked to do something for someone, I will do it.
Except when it comes to doing things for myself. Sometimes I put things off. And recently I’ve had to acknowledge a rather persistent dose of what my good friend Jason Fox would call “Percrastifection.”
Yes, it’s that wonderful amalgamation of wanting to do one’s best on a particular project, but struggle to deliver, because it’s not quite there yet, not quite good enough to “show and tell.”
Aaaaaagh. Despite some severe self-talk, scheduling time in the diary, support from colleagues and friends and occasional self-flagellation (gee, those birch twigs sting) it hasn’t been enough to get this one thing, this one thing that has tripled, no quadrupled in size in my mind since first developed as an idea at the end of 2015, done.
Does “Percrastifection” ever get in your way?
Getting on with what needs to be done isn’t always as straightforward as we would like it to be, but there are some things we can do to help.
How to help procrastination and percrastifection
Knowing where to start.
Staring at a blank sheet of paper, experiencing writer’s block can be a nightmare. Which is why sometimes putting something down, even if it’s complete rubbish and never ends up in the final document can help. Sometimes starting at the end and working backwards can help. The only way to leave the starting block is to leave, now, not when you think it’s the best time.
Knowing how to keep going.
Life is busy and full of interruptions. You may have realised your project was going to take a while, that it would need to be broken down into smaller sections and you would have to learn some new skills to make it happen. That expected cognitive burden can lead to things being sidelined for a while because instead, we choose to apply ourselves to less demanding activities.
Goodness, that request from Joe for help in his work looks urgent; I’d better help him out first and get back to my task later. Except there can be a dozen Joes and all we are doing is allocating greater importance and urgency to Joe’s challenges than we are to our own.
When we have complex, cognitively demanding work that needs to be done, allocating thinking space is the important first step and to then build fortifications around it, to keep other thoughts or external distractions from intruding.
It is often the White Walkers of our own mind wandering that infiltrate most easily, destroying that focus we had so hoped to ensure would stay intact. Choosing to regularly check in to see whether we have allowed our distractions to get the better of us is essential.
Why is it we sometimes fail to complete? We’ve done all the donkeywork, the task is 95% done, all that’s required is to finish, review and press send.
Except we don’t.
Sometimes a new bright shiny idea appears on the horizon that can sidetrack us. It appears too good an opportunity to pass up, so you grab it quickly with both hands with the thought you’ll come back to the first task shortly.
Procrastination. It’s an affliction and a curse, but it doesn’t have to define us. Learning to overcome our procrastinating tendencies starts with self-awareness, identifying which procrastination camp you have joined and then putting in place those strategies to help you win the battle of your mind.
It can be done. It may not always be easy and may not always work as well as we would like. That’s because we are human, imperfect and fallible, which is what I always say makes us so interesting.
And if you want to read a bit more about procrastination, Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational is a great read.
Does procrastination ever get in your way of you achieving your goals?
Do you know where you sit in the Field Guide to Procrastinating Tendencies?
What have you found helpful to overcome the sneaky procrastinating forces?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.