Procrastination affects everyone. It sneaks up on most people when they’re tired or bored, but for some, procrastination can be a full-fledged addiction. They avoid all day the work that is right in front of them, only to go home and toil late into the night, frantically trying to finish what they could have easily completed before dinner. With the holidays approaching, the high season for procrastination is upon us. It’s even more difficult to get work done when you’re stuck at the office, wishing you were enjoying time with family and friends.
A study published earlier this year by Bishop’s University explored the link between chronic procrastination and stress-related health issues. The researchers found a strong link between procrastination and hypertension and heart disease, as procrastinators experienced greater amounts of stress and were more likely to delay healthy activities, such as proper diet and exercise.
Procrastination is fueled by excuses. We cannot expect to overcome procrastination and improve our health and productivity until we’re able to overcome the negative mental habits that lead us to procrastinate in the first place.
What follows are the most troubling excuses we use to help us procrastinate. They’re troubling because they’re the most difficult excuses to conquer. For each, I offer preventative strategies so you can overcome procrastination and get productive, even when you don’t feel like working.
“I don’t know where to begin.”
Paradoxically, we often find ourselves frozen like a deer in headlights when confronted with a difficult task. As well, much like deer, the best thing we can do is move in any direction, fast. When a task is particularly difficult, you need all the time you are given to complete it. There’s no sense in wasting valuable time by allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by the complexity of the task.
The key here is to not allow fear of the whole to stop you from engaging in the parts. When something looks too difficult, simply break it down. What can you accomplish in 60 minutes that will help you slay the beast? Then, what can you do in 60 more minutes? Breaking your task into shorter periods (where effort is guaranteed) allows you to move out of the “deer in headlights” frame of mind. Before you know it, you’ve accomplished something, and the task goes from way too hard to absolutely doable. When it comes to challenging tasks, inactivity is the enemy.
“There are too many distractions.”
For most of us, getting started on a large project is a challenge. We stumble over all sorts of smaller, irrelevant tasks that distract us from the real assignment. We answer emails, make calls, check the news online…anything to avoid the elephant in the room.
Being busy is not the same as being productive. When you find yourself avoiding a particularly sizeable task, slow down and visualize what will happen if you continue to put off the task. Distractions numb you by shifting your attention away from these consequences (a.k.a., away from reality). Reminding yourself of what will happen if you continue procrastinating is a great way to make distractions less enchanting so that you can focus on your work.
Read Part II here.