Procrastination, I said – Mañana, mañana, you answer!!! The famous words for “I will do it tomorrow morning”.
Yes, we all procrastinate! But how often do you feel overwhelmed in stressful situations with essential tasks where you need to stay focused and productive but feel overwhelmed?
Do you find yourself procrastinating, delaying, not achieving, and unsure why?
It has nothing to do with confidence in the task or knowing how to spend your time; however, negative thoughts run through your mind.
You may have looked at stopping procrastinating, delaying tasks, and increasing productivity for years. Yet you feel stressed, and all the coping strategies you tried do not work long-term. Some health problems, such as high blood pressure, can be related to our stress level and how we manage stress.
It can be challenging to overcome procrastination and stay productive with positive thoughts most of the time.
What are the studies telling us about procrastination?
Well, you are not the only one. Studies suggest that procrastination chronically affects approximately 15% – 20% of adults. And that about 25% of adults consider procrastination a defining personality trait.
When looking at the age groups most likely to procrastinate. Different studies show that young people are more likely to procrastinate. Many people seem to outgrow procrastination as they mature. For example, a 2016 study analyzed procrastination in several different age groups. They found that procrastination was highest in 14-to-29-year-olds, the youngest age group.
When looking further into it is suggested that there are four types of procrastinators.
The performer says, “I work well under pressure.” This person is very deadline-oriented and believes they work best under a time crunch. Your biggest challenge is getting things started. The best way to deal with this is to shift the deadline, setting a start date instead of a due date. The performer thinks they are coping with stress. All productive people like some stress to strive; however, there is a fine line between getting good stress and getting stressed.
The self-deprecator who says, “I am so lazy right now”. This person is the opposite of lazy, so they are extra hard on themselves when they don’t do something. We see this a lot with our male clients. They tend to blame inaction on laziness or stubbornness rather than admit they are tired. The best way to deal with this is to take a short break and recharge. Let the negative thoughts come out and replace them with positive thoughts.
This person is a pro at filling up their calendar, is often overwhelmed, and suffers from chronic procrastination. “I’m so busy” is probably the most common excuse. Interestingly, some of the busiest people I work with get the most done; they love chronic stress. When busyness is an excuse for not doing something, it usually indicates avoidance. The best way to deal with this is to take a step back and take a moment to acknowledge what you are avoiding.
The novelty seeker:
This person constantly comes up with new projects to take on and gets bored a week later. They’re intrigued by the latest trend and will quickly implement but not follow through. They are likely to follow social media trends and get nowhere fast.
They are great at making decisions and taking action. However, they inadvertently lose a lot of time and burn out because they don’t take consistent action in one direction long enough to see results. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurial clients of mine fit into this category. The best way to deal with this is to see projects through individually.
The excellent news about procrastination:
No matter which one of the above defines you, you can avoid procrastination if you put your mind to it – like everything else!
The Ivy Lee Method
This method was designed by Ivy Ledbetter Lee over 100 years ago and is still relevant today.
It is a simple method anyone can apply without any training – the only thing needed is persistence.
- At the end of each work day, write down the six most important things you must accomplish tomorrow. Do not write down more than six tasks.
- Prioritize those six items in order of their true importance.
- When you arrive tomorrow, concentrate only on the first task. Then, work until the first task is finished before moving on to the second task.
- Approach the rest of your list in the same fashion. Move unfinished items to a new list of six tasks for the following day.
- Repeat this process every working day.
James Clear, the author of “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones,” elaborated on why the strategy has stood the test of time.
On Managing Priorities Well
It’s simple enough actually to work.
The primary critique of methods like this one is that they are too basic. They don’t account for all of the complexities and nuances of life. For example, what happens if an emergency pops up? What about using the latest technology to our absolute advantage? Yes, emergencies and unexpected distractions will arise. Ignore them as much as possible, deal with them when necessary, and return to your prioritized to-do list immediately.
It forces you to make tough decisions.
I don’t believe there is anything magical about Lee’s number of six critical daily tasks. It could just as quickly be five tasks per day. However, I think there is something magical about imposing limits upon yourself. When you have too many ideas (or are overwhelmed), the best thing to do is to prune and trim away everything that isn’t necessary. Lee’s method is similar to Warren Buffett’s 25-5 Rule, which requires you to focus on five critical tasks and ignore everything else. If you commit to nothing, you’ll be distracted by everything.
It removes the friction of starting.
The biggest hurdle to finishing most tasks is starting them. (Getting off the couch can be challenging, but it is much easier to finish your workout once you start running.) Lee’s method forces you to decide on your first task the night before work. This strategy has been beneficial for me. For example, I can waste three or four hours debating what I should write about on a given day. However, I can wake up and start writing immediately if I decide the night before. It’s simple, but it works and prevents stress.
It requires you to single-task.
Modern society loves multi-tasking; however, the exact opposite is true. Having fewer priorities leads to better work. Study world-class experts in nearly any field—athletes, artists, scientists, teachers, CEOs—and you’ll discover one characteristic that runs through all of them: focus. The reason is simple. You can’t be great at one task if you constantly divide your time in ten different ways.
The bottom line about procrastination?
Start the day with the most important thing you need to achieve. It’s the only productivity trick you need. Some effects of stress include panicking when not sure where to start. Then, the result is you are not achieving anything.
Please don’t delay whatever you do, as it always comes back to hunt you. If a task needs to be completed, it needs to be completed.
Although procrastination is not considered a mental health condition in and of itself, it is connected to mental health challenges. For example, several studies have linked procrastination to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Having some relaxation techniques in your toolbox will help you deal with procrastination.
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