A while ago I came up with a character for my sister’s illustrations. Her name was Procrastination Girl and her superpower was procrastinating.
Procrastination Girl has dreams and desires, like becoming a renowned author of serious novels about life and other serious topics. But she also has Netflix so she has to finish watching the end of this series before she can start.
Procrastination Girl should really tidy up the house since she’s got the afternoon off, but since that is a whole afternoon and tidying up will only take ten minutes she can take a few hours to read her book first. Oh no, it’s midnight.
Procrastination Girl has spent all month trying to think of a really thoughtful gift and even found it online with only a slightly expensive delivery charge. But now it’s the day before and it won’t be shipped from America in time if she orders it now so she charges around the shops and gets you a cardigan.
I was thinking that I should address the issue of procrastination as part of my getting organised theme, as people procrastinate for a variety of reasons and it may be useful to explain how I counter these in case it works for anyone else. Just call me Organisation Girl.
But when I went to search online why people procrastinate to consider where to start, I tiredly typed how to procrastinate instead and, incredibly, there is a large portion of the internet dedicated to teaching people How to procrastinate. Examples include ‘contemplate the future,’ ‘look at old photos’ and ‘get on YouTube and just click around.’ As if we need help wasting time! We’re all excellent at it!
Let me be clear here, there is a difference between relaxing and enjoying taking time to yourself (very important) and wasting time, which is procrastinating instead of getting chores done that are becoming increasingly urgent and stressing you out. It’s the latter that we are focusing on at the moment.
Instead of trying to come up with solutions to procrastinating, like giving yourself a deadline to start the task (doesn’t work so well for me personally), I think it is more important to look at the reasons behind why you are procrastinating on a specific task and try to address them instead. Usually it involves the type of task; it could be that the task is very daunting, either because it is difficult or very long, like a work/school project, or because the task is boring and repetitive, like cleaning, or because it involves dealing with people that you want to avoid for whatever reason.
The first step is identifying why you shy away from getting the task done. If you find yourself wasting time instead of doing the thing that you know you are meant to be doing instead, you clearly don’t enjoy it for some reason. Once you have identified the cause, it is much easier to stop yourself procrastinating because you can break it down, make it more manageable and get it done. What a relief to have it behind you! Believe me.
Step two, once you have identified the cause, break it down further. A difficult or long project can be broken down into smaller, more manageable steps that you can tick off. This will give you a feeling of achievement that you can use to drive your progress. Sometimes a task like this can feel overwhelming until you start, but by finding small areas to complete early on, you can get the ball rolling and motivate yourself towards the finish line. If a task is too difficult, instead of dropping it, try to find out who can help you or where you can find the information you need. Can you get that information now? If not, set a time that you will find it out. Always remember, it is more stupid to sit in ignorance deliberately than to ask for information and learn. Clever people are that way because they asked questions.
If the task is boring or repetitive, then you need to find a way to make it fun or faster to complete. Get someone to help you do it so that you can chat at the same time. Time yourself, make it a race to speed up the process. Put on some music to distract yourself whilst doing something repetitive or manual so that your brain does not get bored. For example, I dislike ironing. It’s dull and bed-sheets are frustrating to fold. However, if I put the TV on in the background, my mind has something else to focus on and actually I’m a little annoyed when I finish the task because it’s usually part-way through a program that I was really getting into.
Lastly, ask yourself, does this task definitely need doing? If so, the best thing is to get it over with as soon as possible. Even if it means talking to someone you dislike or facing a challenge that you are intimidated by. The sooner you have done it, the sooner you don’t have to do it anymore- make sense? Also, remember that whilst you are thinking about having to do something you can sometimes build it up in your mind into a task that is scary, overwhelming or more stupid that it is worth and you just want to put it off even more. If you just get on with it, the results may surprise you. You might find that actually that boss you were scared to speak to is lovely, appreciates your work and wants to help you out. Or that cleaning your room was actually really satisfying and you want to set time aside each week to do it properly, with music on, just like you did this time.
Until you do it, you’ll never know!