Ah procrastination, how i love you. Take this morning for example, i’m up in my gym clothes all ready to go for a walk at lunch time, i’ve fed everyone and my laptop is all fired up ready to do some work. What did i do? I’ve made 2 cups of tea and spent about 45 minutes on Zara website looking for something to wear for a wedding in a couple of weeks because my sister showed me something online and then i got distracted.
Procrastinaton is the fine art of doing everything that isn’t what you should actually be doing!
We procrastinate for many different reasons:
- We don’t actually want to do the task at hand – it might be too hard, or too long, or too boring
- We’re afraid of failing at the task we’re doing, so we faff around doing everything but the task so we don’t have to face our fears
- We’d rather be doing all the fun stuff (like shopping online at Zara) rather than the work we need to be doing (i.e. work!)
What can we do to help?
The first thing to do is identify why you are actually procrastinating?
Fear of failure – this goes back to something that i learnt the other week on a coaching course. Your inner critic. That little voice inside your head that tells you ‘you can’t do that’, ‘you’re going to fail’, ‘you’ll never get that much money’, ‘what if you’ve got it wrong’.
One trick i learnt is to personify that inner critic – who or what is that inner critic? Don’t think about it – just let that image form. For me, mine was instant – i knew exactly who it was who was telling me those things. What advice i was then given, which i will share with you – is to draw that person/thing on a piece of paper or make it out of something (mine is done with putty) and then that inner critic is personified and in a physical form. I actually put mine on my desk, so every day i can see it and be like – not today Satan. When those thoughts come say to yourself
- what are you teaching me?
- thank you for your doubt but i got this
- what can i do as a result to make this situation different?
The task is too hard/boring/whatever – break the task down into bite-sized chunks. This is the best way to manage anything in your life. When we look at a task or goal in its entirety it can be hugely overwhelming. But when that task is split into say 10 mini tasks, or monthly goals – it is manageable and can keep you far more motivated. I have all of my tasks on a project management tool – Trello which is pretty and creative and shows me the whole heap of things i have to do, but each one is small and manageable so i can just get going each day on one thing. Even if it’s only one!
We’d rather be doing fun stuff – errrrr obviously! So plan in some fun time during your day. We aren’t meant to sit in front of a screen for 10 hours a day non-stop. I read an article last year that said that students have an attention span of about 8.5 seconds… goldfish have 8.9… just to summarise…. we have a lower attention span than a fish.
So sitting in front of a task for a few hours, although this can happen sometimes if we feel super excited about it is not productive. It’s essential to rest your brain, get re-energised every 30 minutes or so (sometimes even less) and certainly if you’ve been working on something for a few hours you need to take a longer break. Remember – this is not a bad thing – in fact, in my exerience that break helps me to come back to the task fresh and with a fresh pair of eyes.
I used to write timetables for myself where every minute of the day was taken up with doing something. But now i make sure that my day flows with whatever comes up. I know what i need to do that day and so i make sure i get it done, but the rest of the time is made up of life stuff that comes up – walks with the dog, making tea, chatting to my partner, speaking to friends/family.
I’m in a luxury position in that i have that freedom working from home. I know that isn’t the case if you’re in an office but the same thing applies. If you need to go off and make a phone call fine, if you need to go make a cup of tea fine, if you need to go sit in a different room away from your computer fine – go do it. As long as you are getting what you need to done, it shouldn’t be a problem how you do it!
Quick fire tips
- Get rid of that inner critic! She doesn’t serve you
- Break down your tasks into bite-sized chunks, so even if you faff around a bit, you are still getting what you need to done by the time you need it done
- Don’t sit in front of your computer for 11 hours a day non-stop – you might think this makes you look super professional and hard working; but are you actually working?? The time isn’t the problem – we all need to put in the hours sometimes, but make sure you’re getting a good job done – breaking your task down will help make sure you’re doing all you need to
- Just get started – if you’re putting something off, just do something, anything
- Reward yourself – go make a cup of tea, go get a nice lunch, have a coffee – whatever you need. Once you’ve done it – reward yourself.
I think a lot of what we learn in our society is to push and push and push ourselves to a point where we’re absolutely exhausted and stressed. Instead why not cultivate an environment for yourself grounded in self-motivation and love. Remove the critics, take your time, breathe into your tasks and get that shit done.
You can be inspirational, you can be hard working, you can achieve even if every hour you take a 15 minute break! I can assure you…
*image – procrastination by Caroline Jensen on the Click Pro Daily Project, a group photography blog for photographers