Sometimes, all it takes to beat procrastination is a few simple tweaks. You woke up fresh and energized, got your coffee, and have your tasks meticulously listed. Afterwards, you got your “working music” playing through your noise-canceling headphones, and you turn on your computer ready to begin working.
And then…it happens. You glance back and forth at your list and your computer screen. The earliest deadline will not be until later at the end of your workday. You still got time. You want to try out that new restaurant around the corner. So, you go on the Internet to learn more about it.
The next thing you know, half the work day is done, and you have finished nothing! Sound familiar? You are not alone. In fact, the truth is that procrastination is normal. In fact, a study done by Piers Steel, shows that 95% of people procrastinate. The other 5% are probably still in denial.
The dangers of procrastinating
While there are cases when procrastination can do some good at work, it does have its adverse effects. Just take a look at these stats:
- People who procrastinate reported higher levels of stress and more prone to illness long-term.
- Chronic procrastinators exhibited poor work performance and made significantly more mistakes.
- 40% of people that procrastinate report a significant financial loss.
Below are 3 reasons why we procrastinate and how we can fight against procrastinating:
1. Lacking motivation
People crave comfort because it is less stressful and it makes us feel safe. That is why it is so easy to convince yourself to take a nap or go for a Netflix binge even if you got a looming deadline. On the other hand, it takes a whole lot more effort on your part to motivate yourself to get up from that couch and spend time finding your passion.
Why? Let’s be honest: making those sales calls, doing presentations, and writing up reports are hardly things that you would call “enjoyable.” In fact, it can be tiresome, overwhelming, and just plain difficult.
How to fight it: “Motivation has a lot to do with perspective,” says Jim Vernon, CEO of Rockher. “Instead of focusing on the actual task you need to do, shift your focus to what will you get when you accomplish it. Does it mean more time with your kids? Or perhaps a raise?”
One way to do this is by changing the way you write your to-do list. Instead of just listing down one task after another, try listing them down by using an action verb.
Entrepreneur Marie Forleo calls this process as verbalizing your to-do list. Sounds simple, but it is beneficial because as she explains, the presence of these action verbs at the start of each of the tasks on your to-do list serve as a trigger to motivate you to take action.
“Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right.’ Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.” – George Herbert
Fear can be very crippling. For many people, it is just enough for them to validate why they procrastinate. The fear of failure is the most common reason why people procrastinate, especially among perfectionists.
Perfectionists have the urge that everything should be perfect the first time around. There is always that little voice ringing in their head that keeps telling them, ‘what if you mess up?’ Eventually, they give in to that voice and end up setting projects aside.
How to fight it: Baddeley said that the way he overcame this was by accepting failure. A friend of mine gave me John Maxwell’s book, Failing Forward. In it, one of the principles that he taught was that it is perfectly okay to make mistakes. It is part of being normal. The moment I learned to accept this was when I slowly started beating the procrastination habit.
In some cases, procrastinating is one way for a person to show one’s disapproval about something. For students, it can be their way of getting back at a teacher who offended or hurt them. With employees, it can be their way of showing that their resentment after being passed for a promotion or frustration balancing their life at work and home.
How to fix it: The best way to help someone deal with this kind of procrastination is to talk with them.
“Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.” – Theodore Roosevelt
People who procrastinate as a way to rebel feel that they have been wronged, devalued, and short-changed, Having a heart-to-heart talk with them about their concern, I found, helps them let off steam and the shake off that resentment.
Give them some advice and even a challenge on how to reach their goal will help them break away from their procrastinating habit. In some cases, it can even transform them into becoming some of your most productive employees.