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  • Tina Hyland

The Biggest Threat to your Professional Productivity

Contrary to what you might think, procrastination is NOT a time management issue, it is an emotional management issue. When you separate procrastination from a perceived inability to complete a task, you will give yourself the breathing space you need to get back on track, start meeting deadlines and stop beating yourself up. Procrastination — it’s a threat to your professional productivity, but it doesn't have to be.

What we can learn from procrastination?

When we learn WHY we procrastinate we can learn HOW to combat it. Let’s look at a few of the psychological reasons procrastination affects time management and overall productivity.

  • You have a fear of failure. If you don’t put effort into a task, you can’t fail at it or be called to task on it, right? This fear keeps you frozen in place.

  • Avoiding an uncomfortable situation. Some individuals avoid starting or working on a task because they don’t want to be uncomfortable. This feeling of unease or discomfort keeps you at the level you’re currently operating at — your forward trajectory is impacted, but you’re happier there than putting yourself in a space of being uncomfortable.

  • Is it worth the effort? You may not be invested in the task, client or employer and just don’t feel it’s worth the effort to move forward on a task and your time management suffers. You’re simply not motivated to do this new task.

  • You don’t know how to prioritize. When your plate is full and you don’t know where to begin, it’s because you don’t know which task should take priority. If you don’t know which to do first, you procrastinate doing any.

  • You’re a perfectionist. If you set your standards too high, you may find them out of reach and your desire to be “perfect” keeps procrastination in place.

  • Lack of time management skills. Your procrastination could have its roots in your not knowing how to manage time. When you understand time management and what your ideal time management system is you can move past procrastination and regain control.

  • You can’t get started. The simple task of just starting is keeping you from starting. When you have a clear path on what the first step is, you can move forward. When you’re given a “big idea” with no structure, you may not be able to start.

Procrastination and Time Management

To beat procrastination, you need to see positive results from your time management methods. Here are a few ideas:

  • Ten minutes. Set a timer for ten minutes then take on a task you’ve been procrastinating. Anyone can do something they’re dreading for ten minutes, right? When the timer goes off you may find the task wasn’t as bad as you’d imagined, and you may keep moving forward with it. If you’re still not invested in it, move on to a different task. Chip away at the task you are struggling with in ten-minute blocks regularly and you will finish it.

  • Break the task in front of you into smaller goals. When you set small goals, you can more easily tackle a large, seemingly daunting, task.

  • Write it down. Keep a written log (whether digital or analog) of all the tasks you need to complete. Prioritize them, then work on them. If you don’t write it down, it won’t seem like a priority and you just might miss a deadline.

  • Understand your energy patterns. Don’t put off a task until your energy has ebbed to a place where you simply can’t face it. Know when you are your highest energy and tackle big tasks then.

  • Take a break. Give yourself thirty minutes to work on a task, then take a break. Get up, do jumping jacks, take a walk, do some stretches. After your break, get back to the work at hand.

  • Reward yourself for a job well done. Set milestones and build in rewards. The reward could be taking a longer break, reading a book, going out for a coffee.

  • Be realistic. When you have too many tasks that you deem priorities, procrastination will kick in. Set realistic daily to-dos and milestones.

  • Turn a daunting task into a challenge. Who doesn’t like a challenge? When you challenge yourself, you get out of your comfort zone and you stretch beyond boundaries and that lets you know you are up to the task!

Rituals matter

Habits, rituals, and routines are important parts of our daily lives. Whether you’re in the habit of making the bed every day, have a ritual before you start your day or follow a routine to get a task from start to finish, these are important to keep you on track.

It’s been said it takes 21 days to build a habit. If you don’t have a ritualized or routine work habit, start that today. One habit to build is to write the next day’s to-do list before you leave work that day. When you do this, you have made it easier on yourself to jump right into work the next morning; you’re not poking around trying to decide what to do first.

Make it a habit to jump right into work as soon as you get to your desk. If your habit is to go on social media (a real-time waster!) before you start work you may find that an hour, or more, has passed and you’ve made no progress on your to-do list.

Time management methods are as unique as the individual who implements his or her own process. Know yourself by understanding your procrastination emotional triggers then put habits and rituals into place that allow you to better manage your time. Everyone struggles with procrastination at some point - which strategy will you try the next time you can't figure out where to start?

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