Stop Procrastinating and Start Getting Things Done

If only it were that easy.

How many times have you surfed the net instead of reviewing that financial report?

or hit the snooze button more than once on your alarm clock?

or put off that big project because of the resistance you might encounter?

The word procrastination comes from Latin: Pro, "in favor of", and cras, "tomorrow." This is a pretty good description of procrastination--putting off what ought to be done now until some future date.

The irony of procrastination is that most people think it’s harmful, but nonetheless do it anyway for various kinds of short-term payoffs.

Procrastination does no one any good, whether you do it or your people do it. When people procrastinate, opportunities are lost, deadlines are missed, preparation is incomplete, performance sinks, and revenues drop.

So if procrastination has such negative effects, why continue to do it?

5 Reasons Why You Procrastinate

According to research, there are five main predictors of procrastination:

1. Task Aversion. if you don’t like a particular task or it’s unpleasant, your tendency to procrastinate increases.

2. Task Delay. The longer you delay the start of a task, the less important it seems to become unless you associate the delay with a reward or future benefit.

3. Self-Confidence. The lower your self-confidence, the more likely you are to give up when you encounter an obstacle or even to start a task in the first place.

4. Impulsiveness. Someone who lives in the moment and gives no thought to future goals or consequences is prone to procrastination.

5. Conscientiousness. The less self-control you have, the less organized you are, and the less achievement oriented you are, the greater the chance you’ll procrastinate.

In motivational psychology, the well-established Expectancy-Value model sheds light on why you continually check email instead of tackling next month’s sales goals.

This formula says that we tend to prefer 1) immediate rewards over delayed benefits, 2) bigger rewards over smaller prizes, and 3) sure rewards over uncertain rewards.

So, the less immediate, smaller, and uncertain the rewards, the more willing you might be to delay a task and procrastinate.

How to Eliminate the Plague of Procrastination

In essence, procrastination is a form of incompetence. So to turn it around, the idea is to become more competent in skills and habits that counteract procrastination.

Fortunately, there is solid research that points to a solution, but like anything it takes time, hard work, and commitment to implement. Here are 5 elements to overcoming procrastination:

1. Emotional strength. A positive attitude, goal-directed future orientation, a sense of gratitude, and simply being in touch with your moods can go a long way toward increasing your emotional strength to tackle the tasks that you tend to set aside. Also, increasing your stress tolerance through regular exercise, good nutrition, and a getting plenty of sleep helps you have the physical resources to backstop your emotional energy.

2. Focused, rational thought. Clearing space so that you can think is key to overcoming procrastination. Make sure your work environment in conducive to being able to concentrate on your work. Also, think through what you need to do and the consequences of doing or not doing the task.

3. Time-management skills. One of the outcomes of not having good time-management skills is that it becomes easier to procrastinate. Time-management is one of the foundational skills of a leader. Being able to set goals, plan, schedule, and prioritize goes a long way towards reducing the tendency to procrastinate.

4. Learning how to change habits. If you’re in a habit of not getting started, it’s time to create a new habit of starting. It’s been well-documented that it takes around 21-days to change a habit. Make sure you identify specific behaviors to change and then practice those new behaviors over that 3-week period.

5. Task completion abilities. The ability to hang-in and keep going despite obstacles is critical. Make sure you maintain your perspective, stay cool, and use the 4 other elements to keep you on track. It’s also OK to celebrate the small successes along the way—encouragement can often be the difference between moving forward or falling back into your procrastination rut.

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Few of us are strangers to procrastination. Fewer still actually enjoy it.

Master these skills and your productivity will soar and so will your satisfaction for getting the job done now rather than later.

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