By Natalie McGuinness, Mind Canopy Editorial Contributor, Dublin.
The world can be divided into two tribes – those that are given a task, start work immediately and finish ahead of time and those that are given a task, forget it, find a range of alternate tasks and then in a final rush of delirious panic complete 3 seconds before the deadline.
So why do we procrastinate when it increases stress and can lead to poor results?
One part of the equation is that we engage in magical thinking on the reality of time. We assume the future is infinite, but the present is finite. Unfortunately, there is no infinite time and the future, like death and taxes, always falls due.
Another key reason we procrastinate is that part of us thinks that if we don’t try, we can’t fail. By pushing out jobs we think we are mitigating the risk of failure. But all we are really doing is putting ourselves in a more hazardous position and making the potential fail more dramatic. Luckily there are ways we can trick ourselves into acting in time.
Creating a plan and doing one task
Bizarrely the planning part is easy and for many can prove an additional distraction with long lists or extensive Gant charts. If you are breaking out the coloured markers – stop. Instead pick one tiny task on the plan and do it – immediately. Something is always better than nothing.
Setting false deadlines
Procrastinating is a tricky beast, so you need to be stealthy in your methods and indulge in some mental manipulation. Set a time and date to do something. Record it in your diary or set a reminder, but be clear about when this task is going to happen. You need to make a promise to yourself and then keep it.
Feeling the pain and gain
How will you feel when you hand in a thesis or update your CV? Focus on the feelings of relief and achievement. For smaller tasks is there anything you can do to enhance the benefits of completion like grabbing a coffee after a difficult meeting. We can also elevate the consequences of failure, consider what are the implications of poor work. Try and give yourself a carrot and a stick.
The battle against procrastination can be constant, but take the time to pay yourself forward by acting now.