We start procrastinating as children.
We put off studying for our spelling test and pretend we’re sick the day of the test. Our poor parents started to worry something is wrong because the doctor can’t find the source of our constant complaints.
Now we’re all grown up, we might not even realise how much we procrastinate each day. We procrastinate within our inbox. We delay making decisions and end up multi handling our work. We avoid people we owe work, and little things become big things after we’ve put them off for too long.
We procrastinate by:
- Helping others with tasks they could do themselves
- Leaving important tasks off our to-do list
- Completing unimportant tasks
- Putting off decisions
- Allowing ourselves to be distracted or
- Having delusions we actually perform better when we leave things to the last minute.
Procrastinators tend to:
- Avoid responsibility through absenteeism
- Blame others for their lack of delivery
- Downplay the importance of the uncompleted task
- Assign undue importance to another task
The triggers to this habit include:
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Fearing success
- Resenting responsibility
- Fearing failure
- Being unsure of where to start
- Being afraid of confrontation
We may experience more than one of these triggers at any given time.
Your new habit is to use the one touch- one decision making approah. Triage the task. Either act straight away and get the task off your plate, or schedule the work into your calendar to complete later.
Moderate Procrastination (aka mindful delay)
Can procrastination ever help our performance? Yes, although many people argue that it’s not procrastination at all but a technique to restore our energy and give our ideas time to marinate.
Deliberately delaying action or decisions until you’ve had time to think, research and consult before moving forward can lead to better outcomes.
For instance, my writing process is dependent on the time I don’t spend writing at all.
I often write a draft that I’m not happy with. I’ll sleep on it and wake up the next morning with a fresh perspective on how to communicate my key argument with greater clarity and impact. Alternatively, I might go for a walk or attend a yoga class. The task at hand sits at the back of my mind whilst I take time to restore my energy and mull things over.
How do you make the distinction between procrastination and restorative practices?
Procrastination is avoidance, while restorative practices have a purpose and result. The trick is to plan ahead. Rather than simply putting two hours aside to bang out an important piece of work, schedule chunks of time for research, thinking and consultation with others to improve the overall quality of your work.
I like the idea of using procrastination as a strategy to help us achieve greater creativity and higher quality outcomes. It turns a negative into a positive.
If you prefer to think of this idea as “the benefit of deliberate delay” or “managing your energy” please go ahead. I like to think of “moderate procrastination” as “letting great ideas marinate.”
The trick is to ‘delay’ or ‘press pause’ on the right things at the right time. The one-touch-one-decision approach helps us determine the activities we can procrastinate on, and those that should be done right away.
Procrastination and the One Touch-One Decision Making Approach
How it works:
You should neither procrastinate on everything nor action everything straight away without thought. Triaging allows you to identify which task requires which approach.
When seeking creative solutions there are times when we need to think laterally and slowly. Whereas small tasks should be batched and done quickly and with a sense of urgency.
Act with a sense of urgency on anything that can be done quickly. Don’t waste your time re-reading transactional emails multiple times before responding.
Schedule time to complete creative and important larger tasks at a time when your thinking is clearest. According to our research, that’s first thing in the morning for 70 per cent of us.
Get familiar with your objective, then give yourself time to think. Moderate procrastination is only beneficial when we know what’s required of us. We can then do the thinking we need prior to execution.
Don’t just leave everything to the last minute. If you have to rush to implement a project in one sitting prior to your deadline, you’re less likely to be creative. You’re also more likely to produce work with errors and miss deadlines.
Moderate procrastination is about making incremental progress, rather than putting everything off until the last minute.
The feelings of guilt, fear and shame attached to the word procrastination can have a greater impact on productivity than the behaviour itself.
Understand it’s not just you.
Almost everyone procrastinates.
Separate identity from behaviour.
When we tell ourselves and others we’re procrastinators we’re more likely to behave that way.
When we realise almost everyone procrastinates, we can get off the bus and stop the vicious cycle of procrastinating; taking our behaviour personally; feeling shame, and procrastinating further.
Next time you find yourself procrastinating, ask yourself whether deliberate delay is appropriate to the task?
If it’s a small task that can be done now – just do it.
If it’s a creative task that will benefit from a little inaction, then give yourself a break.
Put an appointment in your diary to focus on it at a more appropriate time.
Use the one touch-one decision approach.
Calls to action:
- What are your procrastination triggers?
- On which short tasks do you procrastinate?
- On which longer tasks do you tend to procrastinate?
- Which approaches will you use?
(Hint: One Touch-One Decision, Batching Communication, Scheduling Tasks)
Habits to work on:
- Develop the habit of one touch-one decision.
- Block out time for Tasks/Projects. (Works for longer tasks, projects and sales activities.)
- Schedule time in your calendar for email batching, team catch-ups and one-on-ones.
Let us know how you’re going.
Keep moving forward,