Procrastination is one of those practices that many of us have learned to associate with the root of all things evil.
After all, procrastination swoops in and distracts us right in the middle of some of life’s most critical moments. Namely, when we have one or two big and important things to do, or several semi-important smaller things that need to be completed in a set time.
In essence, there are 7 core thoughts and emotions that lead people down the dastardly road of procrastination when it comes to completing items on their daily task lists:
- Perceived value of given tasks
- Current list of available tasks
- Past outcomes
- Required skillsets
- Resources presently available
- Outcomes: known and unknown
- Prevailing mood at the time
When you find yourself procrastinating, ask these 7 questions to figure out what thought or emotion is dragging you down, so you can get back on track to getting things done.
1. Is there anything else that’s more important right now than this?
Procrastination is a cause and effect process that essentially leads us to a place where we haven’t achieved what we set out to do in the end. Say you have to complete a client’s project by day’s end or they’ll pass on you in favor of another firm:
If you’ve come to the end of the day and not completed this task, you’ve procrastinated your way to that place. If you find yourself shilly-shallying, or simply fixating on something that doesn’t lead you to one of your eventual goals for the day; ask yourself if you think you should be doing something else, to snap you out of that unproductive funk.
2. What’s next?
Should you do your taxes or look over the time-sensitive marketing plans sent over by your PR guy? Procrastination has a very abrupt ability to get in the way when you’re not sure what needs to get done next.
There are a number of different scenarios that can unfold, from over-excitement, confusion, or downright being overwhelmed. Analyze your options, pick the task or two you feel is most important, and just do something rather than letting analysis paralysis take over.
3. Have I ever done this before?
Your level of experience completing tasks can be a double-edged sword when it comes to beating procrastination. If you’ve done something before and found it boring or unproductive, you’re more likely to seek out diversions.
If you have no experience at all doing a given task it can be just as troublesome, because you might not know where to start, putting off the task or spending time scouring the Internet or calling on coworkers for instruction.
Ask yourself what experience you have doing the needed task, and if you have the time, patience, and skill required to get it done.
4. Do I have the skills I need?
If you’ve determined you might not have the skill required to get the job done effectively and on time, then it’s time to start asking the hard, sometimes ego-killing questions. Can you even do this job that your conscience is bugging you to get completed?
Figure out what skills you need, or make the decision to pass the work down to someone who can do it better/faster. Be honest with yourself though; sometimes we tell ourselves we can’t do something even when we haven’t even given it a shot!
5. Do I have everything I need to complete the work?
This could be lumped in with skills if you wish, but also includes other resources as a consideration.
Perhaps you need a commercial printer to get all the promotional materials together for your next big mailer? Or, maybe you’ll need to rent a van to move your distribution team around the city to hand those materials out?
Procrastinating won’t change the fact you don’t have what you need. Figure out how to get what’s missing, then get back to work!
6. Outcomes: are they known or unknown?
Knowing the outcome of a given task, or set of tasks can determine whether we procrastinate or not. But, just because you know what to expect, that doesn’t mean you’re more or less likely to procrastinate. Nor do unknown outcomes necessarily prevent us from staying on task.
It’s all about context, and you need to decide whether the outcome is worth the effort in order to get back on the right path. Doing a proposal for a new high-profile client offers untold revenues if you can pull it off. Not doing your taxes can put you in deep water with your country’s revenue agency.
It’s all about context.
7. What mood am I in?
Just as with the other questions, this one needs context.
You might be bummed out that you have to work while your friends are out skiing it up on the slopes, and find it hard to motivate yourself to get important tasks completed because of that dissappointment. Using a similar example, you might be so excited about an upcoming ski weekend with your friends that you simply cannot get focused on what needs to get done right now, with all the fun thoughts running through your head.
Get a handle on your current mood, as it relates to that which needs completing, and you’ll be able to switch gears before it gets in the way of your day.
Ask yourself each of these 7 questions when you find yourself procrastinating.
By doing so, you’ll gain more clarity by identifying the reason(s) you’re dragging your heels, and eliminate any confusion and/or excuses that may be holding you back from getting those important to-do’s done.