Date: 16th May 2018

Don’t Read This Article…

Ok, so you couldn’t help yourself. Chances are there’s something else you really should be doing right now and you’re reading this because it’s an easy distraction.

We all delay or postpone stuff at some stage in our lives and we all remember the cost; that deal we missed out on because we dithered, that wasted first year at uni because of the ‘freedom’ you experienced for the first time in your life, and so on.

If you want to be more productive and get stuff done you need to read on (or just get back to what you were supposed to be doing).

So, Why Do We Procrastinate? Why are we so prone to distraction and what can we do about it?

Tim Pychyl of Carlton University, Canada has spent 20 years studying the ins and outs of getting side-tracked and has one rather simple observation:

“The more boring, frustrating, difficult, meaningless, ambiguous, or unstructured a task is – the more likely you are to procrastinate with it. So, the more negative emotions you show towards a task, the more likely you are to procrastinate.”

If that’s the case, the solutions can be just as simple right? If you want to get on with stuff, be more productive, be successful and maybe make some money, here are some tips:

  • Make the boring, frustrating, difficult task more appealing. Make a game of it, turn it into a competition; this makes it more interesting and you’re less inclined to have negative feelings and thus more likely to get going.
  • Know the way your brain responds to the separation between action and beliefs. This has a fancy term called Cognitive Dissonance. For example some of the unproductive responses you may have when you procrastinate can be: distracting yourself, forgetting, downplaying the importance of the task or denying responsibility. This means you need to change your behaviour to stop procrastination.
  • Limit how much time you spend on something. This action can be very effective as you’re forced to make the best you can of limited time – it makes the task more fun, more structured, less frustrating because you’ll always see the end in sight. You’re also more productive.
  • Be kind to yourself. Procrastination is a negative thought, try to be positive.
  • Just do it. Just get started. Once a task is underway it’s rarely as bad as you think. Use positive thoughts as a stimulus to start.
  • List the costs of procrastination. When you procrastinate, you’re putting your life on hold. Procrastination is an emotional state, make sure you activate the rational side of your brain to identify the costs and help yourself get unstuck.
  • Disconnect from the Internet. Studies show that over 47% of time spent online is spent procrastinating.
  • Use procrastination as a sign you should seek more meaningful work. You need more tasks that are intrinsically rewarding and if your job isn’t providing them then you need to look around for something more exciting.
  • Always have a plan. If you know what the signs are and what you need to be doing, you’ll get it done.

Your Personal Action Plan to tackle procrastination could look some thing like this (credit: Katie Koerner):

  • Be prepared
  • Re-start your day at 2.00pm
  • Ask for help
  • Set rules and follow them
  • Reward yourself
  • Write out each step

If you’re keen to explore these ideas further, have a read of “Solving the Procrastination Puzzle” by Timothy Pychyl.

Get it? Right, now stop wasting valuable hours putting off those important jobs and get to it. Your life is passing you by…

Maybe a cup of tea first though, eh?


Robin Martin

P.S. This article is part of my Secrets of Success series, aimed at helping business owners and entrepreneurs with some of the key components of business success. The insights I wish I’d had at the start of my business career. I hope that by passing on these little gems of knowledge I can give you some support and help you along the pathway to growth and prosperity.

Posted in: Secrets of Success Blog

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