Procrastination is about putting off (or deferring) something to a later time. We all do it occasionally: procrastination is normal. However, if procrastination starts to interfere with your life and work more frequently, then it needs to be addressed immediately.

There are many reasons why people procrastinate, but here are six of the top reasons that I have discovered that could impact your work productivity.

  1. Perfectionism. I confess that I, too, am sometimes focused on getting things done perfectly so much so that it takes me much longer to complete something (and makes me tired as a result!). Where this may be a more serious problem is when perfectionism causes one to not start work on tasks/projects because of a perceived need to wait to get something exactly right. “If it’s not right, then I’m not going to do it” can cause project paralysis.
  2. Anticipating the worst. Another reason why people procrastinate is that they anticipate the worst. They imagine disaster as an outcome of their performance, so they don’t proceed with it. This can also be related to perfectionism.
  3. Overwhelm or underwhelm. Let’s face it. Sometimes tasks or projects can be too much or too little. If tasks and projects are perceived as overwhelming or underwhelming, sometimes procrastination can set in. If you’re working on a large project and really have no idea how to get started or just see the project as one massive “to do,” then you may be afraid to start the work for fear of failure. Likewise, if the project or task is so mind numbingly boring, you may be tempted to put it off in favour of doing more interesting work.
  4. Immediate gratification. Some people may need to see immediate results from their work. If this isn’t possible, then they procrastinate on getting started. This is particularly true for procrastinators working on projects with long timelines. If the results of the project won’t provide immediate satisfaction of a completed job, the tendency is to delay starting the task.
  5. Passivity. Sometimes an individual may have difficulty starting a task until they get a push from someone else (especially if the task is too big or too small and, therefore, overwhelming or underwhelming). This is called passivity.
  6. Hostility. Perhaps one of the worst reasons for procrastination is hostility. People who are angry at the world for their lot in life may decide they just won’t do anything at all. This is really the worst reason for procrastination and if it’s a habit may require therapeutic intervention.

If you’re a normal procrastinator, here are three ways to combat procrastination and get back on the road to productivity:

  1. Use project management principles on all tasks (large or small).
  2. Stop worrying about what might happen.
  3. Just do it.

Here is a simple guideline on how to use project management principles on all tasks:

  • Determine your deadline, if there is one.
  • Determine the steps needed to complete the project by breaking down the project into its component parts. For example, if the task involves interviewing, writing reports, and reviewing reports with stakeholders, then write down all of those tasks in the order that they need to be done.
  • Next determine how long each component part of the project will take. In our example, determine how long it will take you to conduct interviews, write reports, and review reports with stakeholders. If it will take you five days to conduct interviews, ten days to write reports, and 15 days to review reports with stakeholders, you will need a total of 30 days to complete the project.
  • Based on your estimated required time to complete the project in our example, count 30 days backward from your deadline. This will be your absolute “must” start date to ensure that your project is completed.
  • And finally, get started as scheduled on your starting date. If you can start sooner, that will be even better because it will provide a ‘cushion’ for any unexpected occurrences.
  • Stick to your schedule. No matter what.

Now that you’ve got your project laid out and your task(s) is scheduled, the best thing to do is to start. Starting something helps initiate momentum and the more you work on a task, the more momentum you will build, making it easier to stick to the task. If perfection creeps in and makes you worry about the outcome, help yourself to stop worrying by challenging your thoughts to find the evidence for your perceived outcome. Ask yourself: “What would I say to a friend who had this worry?” You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how quickly the worry will disappear.

And finally, just get on with it and do it! There’s no better way to overcome procrastination than by getting into action. Action is the enemy of procrastination. Make action your friend.

If you follow these three easy steps to overcoming procrastination, you will be more productive, more efficient, more creative, and more energized not only at work, but at home as well.

Mary Colak, CMC, is the President and CEO of the MNC Consulting Group. For over 20 years, she has used her unique ability to scan an organization’s work methods, immediately identifying areas for improvement. This includes helping executives and leaders to improve efficiency in workflow of tasks and projects, office layout optimization, and implementation of methods for the management of records and information resources that enable staff to be more productive. She also continues to act as coach and mentor to individuals within organizations to help them manage and overcome obstacles to job performance.

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