Procrastination

Do you think that those who procrastinate are productive?

The instinctive answer would be “no,” because you think back to that one time when you had that one boss or that one colleague who, despite your best efforts to have them complete a task that you were waiting on, they just didn’t meet your schedule. But does this really mean that they weren’t productive? Or did they even hinder your productivity? Let’s think about this for a moment by first considering the meaning of procrastination.

Procrastination means “to put off or defer until a later time.” There are several reasons why one would defer an action.

This includes anxiety about completing the task (fear of failure, perfectionism), uncertainty about a task (how do I do it? what’s the outcome of the completed task?), unattractiveness of a task (it’s boring work, I don’t like it), low priority of the task (for them, but perhaps not for you!), etc. If the deferred action is done with the knowledge that the delay will cause the procrastinator (or organization) to be worse off because of the delay, then procrastination is definitely counterproductive.

While it may be necessary in some instances (e.g., to thoroughly review important information before making an important decision or writing a critical report), by its nature, procrastination can create unnecessary stress and reduce productivity for everyone affected (remember that one boss or colleague that was holding up your work on that one task?).

There are many ways to overcome procrastination, but here are my best anti-procrastination techniques that I use (and let’s face it, we all procrastinate sometimes – whether or not it’s counterproductive!):

  1. Use project management principles. When you have to complete a task, first determine the deadline. Second, determine the steps needed to complete the task by breaking the task down into its component parts (i.e., chunks of actions that need to be completed as part of the overall task). Third, determine how long each part/chunk will take to complete. Fourth, working backwards from the deadline, schedule sufficient time within your calendar for each chunk. You now have your absolute latest starting date for the task. Fifth, get started as scheduled! If you need help with this, the Project Management Institute website is a good resource.
  2. Stop worrying about what “might” happen. Worry only about what you know will happen. “Worriers” are highly creative and typically high functioning people (to worry about what “might” happen, you really have to have a good imagination!), but if you worry without basis for the worry, then the anxiety created by worrying will kill your productivity. Instead, channel your worry into conducting a risk assessment for your task/project. This will make you more productive and ensure your task is done on time and with minimal stress and worry.
  3. When you develop your schedule for your task/project, stick to it. If you find yourself meandering, try meditation or yoga to re-energize and bring your thoughts and energy back to the project. No one is capable of working on a task for hours on end without an energy or creativity break. Check out this video on how to meditate.

Next time when you think about procrastinating, try the above three techniques to make you more productive, creative, and energized.

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