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Everyone procrastinates. Ready to stop? Track the problem to its source! Here’s how to figure out what kind of procrastinator you are, and do something about it.
We all know the feeling. We have the time to do a job today, but it’s not really due until next week. It’s often easier to procrastinate than it is to get something done. However, as it turns out, not all procrastination is exactly the same.
Dr. Joseph Ferrari of DePaul University (Chicago, Illinois) outlined three basic schools of procrastination in the following flowchart. Make your way through the graphic and see which one applies to you:
If we take a good look at the reasons why we procrastinate, it’s easier to figure out ways to amend that behavior. Once you know which of these types of procrastination apply to your work, check out these strategies for making productive changes.
The Thrill Seeker
For some people, procrastination isn’t about laziness. A tight deadline can be a great motivator and sometimes that helps us produce our best work. However, we can take advantage of this trait by setting our own deadlines, rather than skirting close to those set by others.
Keep a To-Do List
Maintaining a to-do list is a great way to keep track of all your deadlines, especially if you’re working on various different projects.
There are various different tools that will help you keep a to-do list, and many of them allow you to set specific deadlines for individual tasks.
Once you have this kind of canvas set up, why not set a rule that all of your deadlines are actually three days earlier than they are in reality? Obviously, it will take some discipline to hold yourself to deadlines you’ve created for yourself — but try keep it up for a month, and you might just find that beating a deadline is the thrill you’re seeking, even if you’re the one who set the cutoff.
Up Your Game
Most people who fall into the thrill-seeking category of procrastinators are putting off work in search of a sense of accomplishment. Getting thing done just in the nick of time can feel great, but it’s risky. The best way to address this behavior might be to re-address how you think about achieving goals.
Don’t let “getting it done” be the be-all, end-all of your attainment. Try implementing some time-saving techniques in your workflow so you can set the pace, rather than just beat the clock. If you’re a thrill-seeker, you know that you enjoy a good challenge, so why not up the stakes? Don’t just meet your deadline, see how quickly you can get your work done while still maintaining a high standard of quality.
Avoiders put off work because they’re anxious about the outcome, whether it’s good or bad. Rather than finding out whether their work meets expectations, they’d rather skip the judgment of others altogether. That kind of outlook can prevent you from reaching your full potential, so here are two tips to help nip it in the bud.
Face Your Failures
This is probably the most difficult tip on this list to take on board, but it’s also the one that will yield the greatest results. All of us are going to fail at something sooner or later — but if you live your life in fear of failure, you’re going to find it much harder to bounce back.
Start with some small things that you’re not good at. Struggle to remember names when you meet new people? Learn how to do better. Hate the way your handwriting looks? Change it. Wish that you read more books? Do something about that.
If you can tackle challenges like these, you’ll soon see how empowering it can be to overcome failure. Don’t see it as the absence of success; see it as a chance to succeed.
Remove Your Distractions
It’s harder to avoid the task at hand if you’re free from distractions. You might not be able to rewire your brain and remove the source of your procrastination, but you can certainly cut down on the ways your attention is being diverted.
For instance, there’s a Google Chrome extension called StayFocusd that you can use to prevent yourself from visiting certain websites that tend to distract you from your work. You can choose specific sites, and schedule when you want to limit your access to them.
If you’re indecisive, you might find that your search for perfection is mired by an inability to choose one route over another. Use these techniques to counteract the stress that comes with trying to avoid mistakes.
Use the Minimal Effective Dose
It’s tempting to think that perfection is always within our reach, but often that’s not true. If you’re a procrastinator, striving for perfection can easily result in failing to meet your deadline, and that doesn’t help anyone. This is where the idea of the Minimal Effective Dose comes in.
The Minimal Effective Does is a medical concept that states that any amount of medication beyond the amount that yields the desired effect is being wasted. This applies to your work life, too. You can pour effort into a project endlessly, but if it’s not making the end result better, it’s a waste of time and energy.
This isn’t to say that doing the bare minimum is the answer. However, if you know you’re something of a perfectionist, it’s likely that you procrastinate by performing this kind of superfluous work.
If you’re a perfectionist, tasks can sometimes balloon up and seem insurmountable. Instead of thinking of them as one huge ordeal, split them up into smaller parts.
The Japanese Kanban technique is a method of breaking a job down into stages and keeping track of several different tasks’ progress at any given time.
It’s a good way of keeping a team focused on the various parts of a project they’re responsible for. However, it can also help an individual meet their tendency to procrastinate head on.
Break your jobs down into their component parts, and set a deadline for each stage of the progress. As you move toward their due date, you’ll be making steady progress through each project, rather than waiting until the last minute to get started.
Know Your Enemy
The first step toward dealing with your tendency to procrastinate is knowing why it happens in the first place. If you found something familiar in the flowchart at the top of this article, you’ve already taken the first step.
Now you need to act on that knowledge. Changing your routines isn’t easy, but it’ll make you a much more productive person in the long run.
Do you have your own tips on how to beat procrastination? Why not share them with other readers in the comments section below?
Image Credit: Elizabeth Foster via Shutterstock.com