Have you ever found yourself tackling truly unpleasant tasks simply to avoid doing something else? Cleaning out your desk drawer, for instance, when you know you should be working on the report that's due tomorrow? We all procrastinate — some of us more than others — and we all need strategies to help us stop putting things off and get to work. Finding ways to reduce procrastination throughout your company will have a direct, beneficial impact on both productivity and profitability.
Did you know that researchers have found there are different types of procrastinators? They refer to some of us as 'relaxed procrastinators' and others as 'tense or hesitant'.
A relaxed procrastinator just wants to have fun. They strive to avoid as much stress as possible and avoid any extra or more demanding work if it might conflict with play time. If you find yourself easily frustrated or bored by complex tasks, or if your boss frequently asks you to redo tasks because he or she feels you haven't done them justice, you may be one of these fun-loving, work-avoiding procrastinators.
Tense-hesitant procrastinators are often conflicted. They may not want to complete tasks in case their workload increases. They may be reluctant to put themselves to the test by doing their best on a project for fear that their best may not be good enough. Or they may set themselves such a high standard for success that they find it difficult to declare a project 'finished'. If your desk is piled high with work you never seem to get to, yet you continue to say 'yes' to each job that comes along, you may be using procrastination as a way to get bonus points for effort without the risk that a completed project brings.
Whichever type of procrastinator you are (or work with), there are some strategies you can use to reduce the tendency to put things off.
Create/Clarify Goals. Organize your goals, write them down, and put them somewhere you'll see them often. Make sure they're reasonable. Start to keep daily to-do lists to break your goals down into manageable tasks.
Manage your Time Effectively. Sometimes procrastination is a simple time management problem. Start with a consultation, a professional or the purchase of a time management software product. Allot specific time periods to specified goals and make these goal intervals short. Break up goals into small steps and create sub-goals. Try the the "5-minute plan". Plan to spend 5 minutes on each task you're avoiding. You may find that you actually end up spending far more time, once you get started. Some people find that if they keep a journal or record of the time they spend, they can focus and plan more successfully. It makes it all look a lot easier when you look back on it, which makes the next job more manageable.
Change your Attitude. Act as if you are capable and CAN do the job, even if you don't believe it, at first. It's the first step on the path to a new attitude. Take things one small step at a time, but take each step, rather than putting it off. Talk to people who seem to be able to get things done, and ask them what their secret is. In many cases, you'll find that It's as simple as doing something, no matter how small — just making a start.
Change your Approach. Try sharing the burden — ask for help, brainstorm about the task with your co-workers or delegate some of the groundwork to others. Teamwork really works! Try starting with your most difficult task, so things get easier, instead of harder. Or start with the small, easily accomplished tasks, get them out of the way, and use bigger blocks of time for your bigger tasks.
Try Constructive Procrastination. Got lots of big and small tasks that all need to be accomplished ASAP? Mix them up. You'll find that if you start on a big project, then leave it to work on smaller tasks, your brain will still be processing the first job. When you go back to it, you'll be able to tackle it with more energy and insight. Use procrastination to your advantage!
How does all this relate to the profitability of your workplace? Reducing procrastination increases the amount of work that you and those around you accomplish, helping you reach goals more quickly. It also fosters synergy and efficiency within teams and departments — and strong teams produce higher quality work. And better work, done more quickly, will soon translate into a healthier bottom line.
Procrastination saps the energy of a workplace. Following one or more of the simple strategies above will help you and your company get more done in less time — with less stress. And once the work is done, there will be more time for 'Relaxed Procrastinators' to have the fun they love.