Procrastination

taylor2.jpgA couple of my clients have asked me how to deal with procrastination. They both have plenty to do, work wise but are finding it hard to concentrate.

I know how they feel. I get distracted, but that's just one reason for procrastination. When there are things to do, we tend to focus on the easy stuff ­ the checking emails and giving simple replies etc. This can generally be because we don't want to do the task or we don't know how to do the task.

Reasons why we procrastinate

  1. When we don't want to do the task
    There are all sorts of things we don't want to do from writing a report, having to discipline someone or having to do the ironing. We'd rather do anything else.
  2. When we don't know how to do the task.
    We start a task but aren't quite sure what to do, and we don't want to look foolish by asking for help.
  3. Because we get distracted We start with good intentions but then get distracted on to something else.
    So what can help - focus!
    We generally need to look for some way to focus on the task. Sometimes it is hard to prioritise. What can help is to list all the taks that need to be done, then allocate them to one of the 4 categories. As can be seen in this 2 x 2 matrix— What you should do first is the stuff that is both important AND urgent.
­

 high importance
low urgency

high importance
high urgency
DO FIRST ­
low importance
low urgency
DO LAST OR NOT AT ALL
low importance
high urgency

I know it's tempting to do the easy stuff first, but we should deal with the things that are crucial as this will have the greatest impact.

So how to address the problems

  1. When we don't want to do the task
    There are all sorts of things we don't want to do from writing a report, having to discipline someone to doing the ironing. A good technique is to offer ourselves a reward ­ to have a nice coffee, spend 20 minutes surfing on eBay, watching a favourite TV programme etc.

  2. When we don't know how to do the task.
    In this case we need to get help from someone. If we have been asked to do something by our boss and are unclear, we should be back in touch to get more specific instructions or to get someone to talk us through the task.

    Sometimes it is due to a lack of knowledge and sometimes it is because we do not have the skills and abilities. We do need to get these skills etc, and it is much easier to ask early on in a new job when people don't expect us to know everything.

  3. Because we get distracted
    This is my problem! I start writing an article, think of an obscure band and surf to find the name of a track off an old album. What I have to do is to make a note of thoughts so I can follow up with them later. Also to use a timer to set 30 minute periods and this can often mean you get a lot done as in the this 30 minute period. You don't do ANYTHING else! I will often sit in a room without a computer so I have nothing to do but focus. I get lots done when I'm at a library.

You've now got some ideas to be more productive in your work. Some of the suggestions involve talking with others, so don't be shy about this. Most people are happy to give you help if you ask.