Do you generally delay starting tasks that you enjoy? No, nor do I! The interesting thing is that if we delay doing a task we enjoy, it’s called delayed gratification (a sure measure of success), but if it is a task we dislike, then it’s procrastination. So, where should we draw the line between delayed gratification and procrastination? My view is that it comes down to one simple question – are you burdening yourself with unnecessary pressure because you haven’t started that task?
In my experience, people have at least one area where they procrastinate. Mine is compiling my expenses. It isn’t a complex task, it’s just boring and I feel it can always wait until tomorrow – until the tax deadline says it can’t! But what if the tendency to procrastinate is in a more important area of work?
Research shows that uncertainty and complexity of a task or project is often a reason for putting it off. If we are unsure what to do, there is a tendency toward inaction. Inaction in turn can lead to doubts about the ability to complete the project to the standard we expect from ourselves. Therefore, eliminating any ambiguity is a good starting point.
Ultimately, the cycle of uncertainty, doubt, and inaction will be broken by the time deadline, but not until we have put ourselves through an unnecessary level of extra stress. Every time we look at that un-started or unfinished task and put it back on the to-do (later) pile, we are burdening ourselves with the pressure of “I know I should”, “I know I will, but not now, not yet” and “I still have time before the deadline”.
It seems that one way to stop the procrastination cycle is to (i) start the task first thing in your workday and do not allow any distractions to side track you and (ii) promise to dedicate only 10-15 minutes of quality uninterrupted time to the task.
We can often accomplish everything by fooling our brain with thoughts of “just 10 more” whether they be minutes or processes.
Now I must be off to do those xxx expenses!
Ralph is a detail-oriented leader who gets things done. As a partner at Incrementa Consulting, he ensures there are no gaps in which execution can fail. You can connect with Ralph on Twitter or read more of his thoughts on the Incrementa website.