Procrastination, it seems to me, is like laundry, email, paperwork, grading student’s papers, or paying bills. It just keeps coming at us. It never completely goes away. Oh, to have the empty inbox, empty laundry hamper, clean and clear desk.
Wishing it away won’t work. Keeping it under control and fairly well managed will work though. If we don’t figure this out, then it (procrastination, laundry, paperwork) will take over our days at the expense of what’s most important to us.
Talking about procrastination is like talking about struggles with “time management.” It’s too big to solve for. You have to break it down in some way so you can zero in on the solution that’s going to work for you.
So that I can share strategies you can experiment with, I’m making this a blog series, in which I focus on one cause of procrastination in each article. [If you’re not signed up for the blog, you can do that here, so you don’t have to remember to return for the other articles.]. The 4 causes I see are these.
Procrastination Cause #1: Difficult Emotions or Conversations
Procrastination Cause #2: It’s Too Big.
Procrastination Cause #3: No Energy or Urgency.
Procrastination Cause #4: It’s Mundane, Tedious, Boring.
Before you start: What are you aware you’re procrastinating on ? Or recall a task you know you procrastinated on recently so you can figure out a redo for the future. Something you dreaded. Put off until midnight the night before. A task that may have caused friction with employees, business partners, or at home.
With your example in mind, mentally test out how these solutions might work and decide which one you can experiment with.
Procrastination Cause #4: Solutions to …. It’s Mundane, Tedious and Boring
- Add quiet, background energy into the space where you’re working: Instrumental music. TV. A TED talk. Your cat or dog. Think “background,” so it’s not so a powerful distractor (i.e., you get pulled away from the task).
- Create teeny, tiny steps to get yourself into the task. Smaller than you think. Look up the phone #. Don’t call; just look it up. Put the folder on your desk so you see it more often. Don’t do anything yet; “sidle up” to the task. You’re taking the “air” out of the bigness of procrastination by doing this.
- Delegate it. Easier at the office. At home, if you are living with someone, talk about who is better at “starting” a task, keeping at it, and “finishing.” I’ve seen this work many times with couples.
- Don’t do it. Is it possible that subconsciously you’ve already decided it’s not worth it? Stop and make a decision to do nor not to do. Declutter decisions.
- Use a method or tool that will engage your brain, instead of thinking that the task itself needs to engage you. Make the process engaging instead. Possibilities: Mindmapping. Draw a flowchart. Use technology. Or specifically do not use technology. [Related article: 20 Ways to Get Started.]
- Sandwich it with another task. What other task, ideally a bit more easy to get started on, is related to this one? Sandwich with another task or routine that’s already got some energy around it.
- Call someone and while you’re on the phone, do the first easy step. When you’re off the phone, you’ll have started the task already, which may be enough momentum to make it easier to continue with it.
- What’s the reward? Sometimes we need them even though intellectually, we know what we are doing by using the reward. It could be a break. A walk. A webinar. Extra time on something you enjoy doing.
- Tell someone “Today’s the day I am going to…” This can be a friend, coach, organizer, Facebook group, or at an networking in person meeting. Say it out loud to someone who matters OR so that YOU hear yourself say it. Sometimes, that’s enough.
Sometimes “just do it” works. Sometimes it doesn’t and there are lots of variables as to why. Which of these 9 ideas could work for you on the mundane, boring repetitive task you know you need to do and haven’t been able to get yourself to do?
The first steps is a no charge, 20-30 minute introductory call. You’ll get at least one idea or strategy and we can discuss whether or how working together would be useful to you.