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Published Thursday, December 20th, 2012, by Norman Roth.
Manage your time. Get it all done.
If you’ve found yourself putting off important action items for your business center over and over again, you’re not alone. Most people procrastinate to some degree – but some are so chronically affected by procrastination that it can become detrimental to their businesses and disruptive to their careers.
The key to controlling this destructive habit is to recognize when you start procrastinating, understand why it happens (even to the best of us), and take active steps to manage your time and outcomes better.
According to psychologist Professor Clarry Lay, a prominent author on the topic of procrastination, procrastination occurs when there’s “a temporal gap between intended behavior and enacted behavior.” That is, procrastination is occurring when there’s a significant time period between when people intend to do a job, and when they actually do it. Most of the experts agree that following these basic steps can help one deal with and control procrastination:
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Step 1: Recognize You are Doing It
Here are some useful indicators that will help you know when you’re procrastinating:
- Filling your day with low priority tasks from your To Do List.
- Reading e-mails several times without starting work on them or deciding what you’re going to do with them.
- Sitting down to start a high-priority task, and almost immediately going off to make a cup of coffee.
- Leaving an item on your To Do list for a long time, even though you know it’s important.
- Regularly saying “Yes” to unimportant tasks that others ask you to do, and filling your time with these instead of getting on with the important tasks already on your list.
- Waiting for the “right mood” or the “right time” to tackle the important task at hand.
Step 2: Work Out WHY You’re Procrastinating
Why you procrastinate can depend on both you and the task. But it’s important to understand which of the two is relevant in a given situation, so that you can select the best approach for overcoming your reluctance to get going. Here are some common reasons.
The task itself: One reason for procrastination is that people find a particular job unpleasant, and try to avoid it because of that. Contract negotiations, an issue raised by one of your clients that you need to attend to; many important actions have unpleasant or tedious aspects to them. The tendency is to simply put them off for another day. The problem is when that “other day” doesn’t come.
Disorganization: Disorganized people are not able to fend off the temptation to procrastinate, because they lack prioritized to-do lists and schedules to help them gauge how important each action item is, and are never clear as to precisely when it’s due. This lack of organization keeps the individual from sorting through the work and breaking it down into manageable “next steps”.
Feeling overwhelmed: You may doubt that you have the skills or resources you think you need, so you seek comfort in doing tasks you know you’re capable of completing. You may also fear success as much as failure; thinking that completion of the action will lead to yet a more significant action or decision and you will be pushed to take on things that you feel are beyond you.
Perfectionism: Perfectionists are often procrastinators, as they can tend to think “I don’t have the right skills or resources to do this perfectly now, so I won’t do it at all.”
Step 3: Adopt Anti-Procrastination Strategies
Procrastination is a habit – a deeply ingrained pattern of behavior. That means that you won’t just break it overnight. Habits only stop being habits when you have persistently stopped practicing them, so use as many approaches as possible to maximize your chances of beating procrastination. These general tips will help motivate you to get moving:
- Make up your own rewards. For example, promise yourself your favorite snack at lunchtime if you’ve completed a certain task.
- Notice how good it feels to finish things!
- Ask someone else to check up on you. Peer pressure works! This is the principle behind self-help groups and it is widely recognized as a highly effective approach.
- Create an Urgent/Important Matrix to help prioritize your to-do list so that you can’t try to kid yourself that it would be acceptable to put off doing something on the grounds that it’s unimportant, or that you have many urgent things which ought to be done first when, in reality, you’re procrastinating.
- Set yourself time-bound goals: that way, you’ll have no time for procrastination!
- Focus on one task at a time.
- Break each project into a set of smaller, more manageable tasks. You may find it helpful to create an action plan.
- Start with some quick, small tasks if you can, even if these aren’t the logical first actions. You’ll feel that you’re achieving things, and so perhaps the whole project won’t be so overwhelming after all.
Remember that the longer you can spend without procrastinating, the greater are your chances of breaking this destructive habit forever! To have a good chance of conquering procrastination, you need to spot straight away that you’re doing it. Then, you need to identify why you’re procrastinating and take appropriate steps to overcome the block.
ABOUT THE AUTHORNorman Roth
Norman Roth is CEO of Roth Sales Enhancers, a professional sales management consulting and training firm. Norman’s impressive track record of building and turning around sales departments has lead The Wall Street Journal to refer to him as a “talented, powerful manager, trainer and new business developer.” Norman works with start-ups, small 10-employee companies and multi-million dollar corporations and speaks regularly at universities and through seminars and has authored and presented CEC courses. Norman is dedicated to the success of each client he is honored to serve. For more information, please visit www.rothsalesenhancers.com, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Norman at 312 396-4115.