You might see an item on your “to-do” list that was there a week ago…or possibly even a month ago. Procrastination can occur because you either dread tackling the issue or you feel you want to think about the matter a little more. Either way, it makes you less productive and efficient.
No one knows why some people procrastinate, but phenomena has a scientific name: Temporal discounting Procrastinators would rather experience a smaller win by completing an easier task more quickly rather than receiving a larger reward by taking on a bigger project. According to a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, people need to have a broader view of a project rather than overthinking the bigger issues. It is a form of anxiety.
Typically a procrastinator might see something on their task list and second think their ability to address the problem and fear what could go wrong.
If you can relate to this approach, you are not alone. A University of Michigan study found that 73% of adults between the ages of 25 and 35 overthink, as do 52% of 45- to 55-year-olds.
How do you know if you have a problem with procrastination?
- Do you have lots of items on your to-do list that have been there a long time?
- Do you find yourself avoiding high-priority tasks while spending more time on easier bit lower-priority projects?
- Do you check your email frequently during the day and start responding to them even though you had intended to work on something else.
Here are five steps you can take to concur procrastination:
(1) When you are assigned a large complex project, start by fully understanding what a successful outcome will look like. Then brainstorm all of the steps that might be needed. Even though some of them might need to be revised along the way, start with the first task before thinking of the next step. Baby steps. Depending on their complexity, promise to take on one step per day or week.
(2) If holding yourself accountable doesn’t work, tell a friend or a colleague about your project and its deadline. They can check up on you.
(3) Reward yourself for completing the task. Promise yourself a treat. Maybe a chocolate bar is just what you need to when you want to celebrate.
(4) Eliminate distractions. Loud noise or other conversations may keep you from staying on task. If you work in a noisy office, consider noise cancellation headphones. You can find some soothing playlists to listen to or just enjoy the silence.
(5) Are you more focused early in your workday or in the afternoon after lunch? Focus on your most important tasks during this time of day.
Once you’ve changed your ways, you might find yourself becoming a “non procrastinator.” Researchers are beginning to study people who start a task right away and finish it as soon as possible.