This is the big one for homeworkers, isn’t it?
I think we all procrastinate to some extent. You put off something which you know you’ve got to do at some point, and which actually you could do straightaway. You put off to try and make more pleasant, but often end up making yourself feel stressed and guilty instead. There are many ways you can procrastinate and some of them masquerade as being helpful.
Do you recognise any of these?
- You carry on researching and gathering material long after you should have started on the task. You tell yourself this is vital background information but in fact you are just putting off the evil moment.
- You start to obsessively clean and tidy your immediate environment, well beyond necessity’s sake. You can’t start that job until you have absolutely the right equipment, furniture, computer, reference materials etc.
- Suddenly all sorts of other jobs take priority – the car needs cleaning, the washing line needs fixing, your shoes need polishing. That might be all useful activity but underneath you know very well it’s not getting you any closer to achieving that dreaded task.
So why do we Procrastinate?
There are many reasons for putting things off. In the simplest instances, it’s because you find the job boring or perhaps you don’t quite understand what is required.
If that is the case, there are simple practical steps you can take to rectify the situation – get somebody else to do it, for example! Particularly when you are running your own business, it really does pay to concentrate on your strengths, which bring in the money, and pay someone else to do the bits you hate and never get around to.
Doing the books is a prime example, and you can also get other people to deal with correspondence, chase payment of invoices and make sales calls.
Sometimes there are more insidious reasons which stop your progress and it might help to think whether any of these are applicable.
Just identifying them can help you to start overcoming them.
- Maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of work you have to do, and the worry makes you unable to focus on making a start.
- You might be afraid of failing – ‘I’ve never been any good at this sort of thing. What if I make a mess of it and show myself up?’ Or you may actually fear success – ‘What will happen if I do really well in this? Will people still like me? What else might I have to do?’
- You suffer from perfectionism or unrealistically high standards. You might want to read everything you can find on a subject before starting to write it up, and keep finding new material.
- You might be expecting your first attempts to resemble the finished product, and get put off when your efforts look amateur or inadequate.
Don’t wait until the situation is desperate and you’ve made yourself miserable before you get started. The following suggestions should help you to deal with any of the above reasons for putting something off.
- You know that horrible sinking feeling when despite yourself the thought of that long-postponed task slips into your mind? Sometimes actually getting down to it can come as a relief. Try turning it round in your mind – ‘Today I will do that thing and it will be a pleasure because then I won’t have it at the back of my mind any more.’
- As long as cleaning and tidying your office isn’t one of your ways of procrastinating, having a good old clear up can be a way of kick-starting the brain. Making space in your physical environment can somehow make a space in your mind for new ideas to flow into.
- Remember that the most difficult moment is the first moment. If you can just get started, you begin to build up momentum and the further you go, the greater the momentum, until you are carried along almost without volition.
- Break the job into a number of small, easily achievable chunks. Do the first and then reward yourself by making a coffee or having a look at the paper. Continue like this in short bursts and you might find the magical momentum building up.
- Or you could start with the job you find easiest or like the best. Maybe it’s not the logical place to start, but if it gets you fired up, you can slot it into place later.
- A report or piece of written work can be hard to make a start on, as you already have the finished piece in your mind’s eye, and it’s difficult to know where to start. Have a brainstorm and write down all the ideas you associate with the subject. Group together the points into categories and you will begin to see how to develop your argument. The hard work is done; now you can concentrate on expressing your ideas.
- If you’re feeling overwhelmed – take a deep breath, sit down with a piece of paper and list all your jobs in order or priority. Start with the most important and work on it until it’s finished or you’ve done as much as you can. Then go on to the second most important job etc.
How do you overcome procrastination?