Procrastination is defined as the action of delaying or postponing something. This psychological occurrence rears its ugly head in various forms.
I would never have described myself as a procrastinator. (My friend Angie is a much bigger expert on the fine art of postponement.) It is only recently that I discovered that I too have some procrastination tendencies.
When my friends and I decided to take on the roles of bloggers for Counting Coins, it awakened something in me. Finally I had the opportunity to do something creative and do it on my own terms. The problem? Two words: day job!
I found myself in a position where my head was constantly running amuck with ideas and topics for Counting Coins. Unfortunately, Monday to Friday, 8 to 5, I have to put those ideas aside and focus on what is currently paying the bills. This conflict of interest has somehow awakened a monster in me, and its name starts with P and ends with -stination!
Don’t get me wrong, I love my day job. I work for a great company, have an awesome boss, and until someone starts paying for ad space on Counting Coins, my day job is what keeps the lights on. That is, however, what procrastination does – your brain insists on doing fun things rather than the things that needs to be done at the moment.
In the case of my two-job scenario, my attention is inevitably divided – my brain (i.e. I) really really wants to work on Counting Coins, while my reality needs me to focus on something else. And the result? Instead of focusing on either, the two sides of my brain conspire by doing, well, nothing. Instead of writing an article for Counting Coins or compiling that report for work, I instead end up building mini Eiffel Towers out of paperclips.
Eventually, I will look up from my mini not-so-aesthetically-pleasing steel wire creations and realise that the clock is ticking, and I will now have to complete my report in record time while in panic mode.
Sadly, procrastination is a habit. And, as we all know, habits are so easy to learn, but so hard to shake. Especially habits that are fun, like watching Jimmy Kimmel videos on YouTube instead of completing the mundane tasks of everyday life.
To make matters worse, when I procrastinate, I eat. I eat to procrastinate, and then I eat to motivate myself to start completing the pile-up of tasks at hand, and then I eat to reward myself for doing those tasks. Not only does procrastination add feelings of guilt, it also adds to my waistline.
Apparently procrastination is more common than we think – about 95% of all people report exhibiting some form of procrastination.
To assist us fight this monster, here are some tips to deal with that voice constantly whispering “do it later”:
1. Do the nasty things first
Brian Tracy wrote a book called Eat That Frog! in which he explains that in order to prevent procrastination, you need to complete the tasks you dislike the most as early as possible to get them out of the way.
2. Be honest, what is really wrong?
Most psychologists agree that if you keep putting off a task, it is probably because you feel some kind of other emotion towards the task at hand. Perhaps it is making you angry that you have to do this? Does it make you sad? Do you actually hate the fact that someone told you to do this? Do you feel ashamed that you should be doing this? Find the real emotion behind your stalling tactics and deal with that first.
3. Read this article about Procrastination by my friend Angie
4. Watch this incredible Ted Talk by Tim Urban, in which he explains what happens in your brain during the procrastination process.
5. When you start losing faith in your abilities, remember that Bill Clinton, Leonardo da Vinci and the Dalai Lama all struggled with procrastination.
6. Download the Stick app. Technology is great! This app motivates you to set goals and stick to them.
7. Someone once suggested that when setting goals, you should set a deadline for yourself – and put a price on it. Once you’ve decided the amount that a specific task is worth, give that amount of money to someone you trust. If you achieve your deadline, they will give you your money back, if not, they have to donate it to a charity or cause that you do not support – or dislike.
There is still plenty we can do to get out of our deferment slumps, but let’s leave those for another day. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, but the fact that I wrote this article and you read it, is already a sign that we are on our way to productive greatness. After all, Mzansi wasn’t built in a day!