Can we Ever Beat Procrastination at Work?24 Feb 2016
Understanding that if it's just your nature to put things off, and that if you lack motivation or need to make progress whichever way you can - the tendency would really be to answer: "NO, you cannot beat it".
There is a million things you can try to make yourself NOT procrastinate, but if you've been cultivating this rotten habit long enough, consider yourself gone "beyond repair".
What are the critical items that have to occur in order to stop a procrastinator from developing within you? If you're relatively young and don't want to be one, or are terribly desperate to change, if you already are - take a look:
A Control Force: Something or someone needs to be hanging over you
Whether its your boss, your landlord or your spouse - there must be something bigger than your will standing over you. In other words, if your bank account is bursting in seams, so are your fridge and garage - chances are, your boss's frown or disapproval will not have much effect on you.
There has to be either something you're respectfully scarred of or vividly excited about that can make you do the thing you're meant to do on a daily basis.
An Inspiration: The other side of the coin
If you're not just a busy-bee, working away for someone else, possibly having little care for the job, but needing to do it anyway - what can drive and motivate you enough to stop any procrastination developing, is passion for the job. If you enjoy it, feel fulfilled by doing it or - even better - the work is what you've always wanted to do - there is little chance you'll put doing it off at any time for any length of time.
The only tricky part here is keeping the inspiration alive.
For instance, it's common for people starting their own businesses with great passion to lose it in the process. With the amount of red tape and organization it requires, burning out is very easy. Keeping the inspiration high is difficult and requires a conscious effort.
How to Focus to Work Against Procrastination, then?
In both of the above scenarios, what can help you avoid making those bad procrastinating habits or thoughts is being aware of their consequences. Truth is, once you get into a habit of giving things time to wait for action, and forever changing due dates on work items - you're very unlikely to change. We're creatures of habit and making any significant changes is always hard, as this research confirms. Sometimes it's enough to just know how bad it can get, to make you avoid making a habit of "laying things off for a while".
Another thing is focus. Things will always need putting away for a while, as you can only work on a few items at a time, but what makes a procrastinator different from their opposite is determination to get back to the once postponed tasks. The key to making this work is staying focused on the long term goal and fair to oneself. Once you're able to fool yourself that a task hidden is a task done - you're in trouble.
A few useful tips you can use to fight this habit are:
- The 5 minute rule - if a job can be done now, do it instead of putting it off
- Setting priorities and sticking to their meaning
- WIP limits for better focus – not working on more than 2 items at a time
- Setting specific due dates only (as opposed to "in a few weeks", "next quarter"). Due date should really mean a DATE
The very last resort to procrastinators can be enforced in form of periodical reports - asking the person in question for a detailed report of what has been worked on, done or not quite finished. This is very likley to yield a result, as the very awareness of having to answer for what's been completed is usually enough to get people (yourself included) to work.
You may have noticed that "procrastination" here has been described more like a disease than a way we behave. This is not an accident. The danger is - once you become good at procrastinating, it's very hard to change.
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