Procrastination – it’s a threat to your professional productivity. There is a myriad of reasons why individuals procrastinate and how that procrastination impacts time management throughout the workday.

It’s spiral many professionals and freelance workers find them in and they don’t seem to be able to find a way out. If you know yourself well enough to know you’re not getting through your to-do list, daily tasks or missing deadlines because of your procrastination, there is help available!  

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 because of procrastination. 

What causes procrastination time management?

The initial problem with time management and procrastination is there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Because your colleague uses Time Management Tool A and loves it, doesn’t mean it will work for you. How many time management tools and courses and books have you read and tried to follow the principles? A couple? A dozen? Why don’t the teachings “stick”? Because you need to get to the root cause of your procrastination.

Don’t spend an inordinate amount of time shopping for or Googling a time management system or device. To get out of your procrastination rut you need to make forward movement. The best way to do that is to simply write down all the tasks and projects you’re working on – on a notebook or in an online task manager. Once you’ve written down all of your projects (make sure you list those that are daily, weekly, recurring, monthly and those with far-flung deadlines). Getting the information out of your head and onto paper will help ease some of your procrastination – especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes the perceived tasks facing you aren’t as plentiful as you’d imagined in your thoughts. 

Know that procrastination isn’t laziness, nor is it because you have a lack of tools at your disposal. In fact, you may have too many tools at your disposal! 

Procrastination kicks in for many reasons and those are as varied as the individual for whom procrastination is an issue resulting in lowered productivity and task completion.

Before you move on to tactics to address how to get more organized, you need to address the psychological reasons behind your procrastination. 

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. 

Here are some psychological reasons you’re stuck in a procrastination rut: 

1. 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. This is a double-edged sword because if you miss a deadline you will certainly be called to task, but you’re less fearful of that than you are at beginning a project and having it fail. If you lack the training, this feeds into your fear of failure.

2. 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.

3. 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. 

4. You’re overloaded and overextended. If you have another task piled on top of your already full to-do list, the feeling of being buried will lead to procrastination. 

5. 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. 

6. 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.

7. You’re just not interested. How many times have you been given a task or taken on a role you’re just not invested in? If that’s the case you will push that task to the bottom of the list rather than work on it. 

8. 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.

9. 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.

Do you see yourself in any of these procrastination “types”? Is there a different reason you procrastinate? Pinpointing the reason you’re not moving forward helps open you up, helps you breakthrough and gets you back on track for better time and task management and productivity. 

How Does Procrastination Affect Time Management?

How can you beat procrastination? 

To beat procrastination you need to see positive results from your time management methods. 

Here are a few to implement. Try one at a time, see if it works for you; if not, try on a different tool or strategy. 

1.   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. 

2.    Find a workspace that helps you be effective. If your workspace isn’t conducive to your work, find a new space or update your space to help you be more productive. 

3.    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. 

4.    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.

5.    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. 

6.    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. 

7.    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. 

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

9.    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.

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