Many of us instinctively find ways to avoid the boring, frustrating, and stressful tasks we are accosted with every day. According to Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Equation [*1], 95% of us have openly admitted to procrastinating at some point. With those sorts of numbers, you can only wonder about the integrity of the remaining 5 percent, who most likely haven’t been entirely honest with their answers.
If you examine the consequences of procrastination, the logic for putting off important tasks flies out the window. It just doesn’t make sense to disappoint bosses or clients by missing deadlines, failing a critical grade paper, or getting the power cut off because of late bill payments.
There are many documented reasons for procrastination. Anxiety and self-confidence feature heavily in many discussions, with fear of failure leading to avoidance issues and procrastinators often gravitating towards more stress-relieving activities.
Avoiding unpleasant and boring tasks is another popular reason that always leads to the inevitable Christmas rush, or late nights cramming for an exam. Now that you have a good idea about why humans spend so much time procrastinating here are a few tips on how to overcome this debilitating human condition.
- Think Differently: Instead of thinking about how boring a task is, turn it into a challenge. If you’re dreading writing that sales report for your boss, create a more interesting challenge for yourself. See how many words you can churn out in a 15-minute increment. In the next 15-minute block, try to beat your previous record.
- Break it Down: If you’ve got an important test coming up but dread the inevitable long hours of study, ask yourself what’s the maximum amount of time you think you could spend continuously hitting the books. You’ll resist starting if you think about how boring 3 hours of study is gong to be, but what about 30 minutes? Find the period of time you are most amenable to dedicating towards the task, and then do it.
- Start: If you’ve been staring at a blank document for over an hour get a word down, any word. The page won’t be blank anymore, and the creative juices will start to flow.
- Total up the Costs: If you’re afraid to get started, you should spend five minutes tallying up the cost of what it will cost you not to do what’s required. If it means annoying your boss, failing an exam, or never retiring because you failed to start on your savings program, then you may just scare yourself enough into getting started.
- Turn off the Distractions: If you’re faced with yet another tedious spreadsheet analysis and find your attention wavering between Facebook, YouTube, and texting your friends then turn off the phone, or put it in another room.
If the allure of the web is your Kryptonite, then turn off the WiFi. If that’s not enough, use an app like Freedom [*2] to block all forms of access to social media. Freedom works on almost everything, from smartphones to PCs, so your technology no longer has the ability to distract you from what’s important.