Procrastination is a new word, but the phenomenon is not entirely new. It is an unconscious delaying of the unpleasant tasks with the help of other tasks.
Everyone procrastinates. Students – on the last night before the exam, junior managers – before calling an unpleasant customer and their bosses – before firing one of them. If you are not made of steel, you also procrastinate.
May be you are procrastinating right now.
People procrastinate for two reasons:
- First, while procrastinating we replace ambitious plans with the short-term outcome. A momentary pleasant thing is much more attractive than the prospect of hard work during several weeks.
- Secondly, procrastination is replacing of important things with useful. It’s easy to forget that useful ≠ important.
The paradox of procrastination
Guilt, fear and delaying of a task requires more power than the work itself. And time too. You could have already done everything ten times, but you are moving around the room and complaining.
So if something is really need to be done, it’s better to overcome procrastination on several levels.
First level: awareness
Procrastination often comes from fear. The very awareness of this feeling magically sobers.
Yes, I dislike this client. I’m scared to communicate with him, so I delay the call.
Simply and humanly confessing this feeling, you submit it to the conscious level and you become calmer. It really works well: if you realize it – it’s practically done.
Second level: splitting
There is an old and effective method: to split a big and difficult task into small easier subtasks. It works because small task is not so scary and dangerous. The worst thing is to start.
Third level: order
The downside of procrastination is that we seem to control the situation, when in fact we have no control at all. To control the situation we need a plan.
Neil Fiore invented the technology of “Antischedule”. The bottom line is to make a schedule of rest and pleasant things. Literally mark in the schedule time for sleep, breakfast, road to work, lunch break, road to home, dinner with the family, the family’s affairs, reading, sports, watching movies etc. And left working hours free. So, it means to mark everything except of work.
This schedule has a miraculous effect: you see how little time you actually have to work.
Fiore also advises to split the working day into half-hour segments and mark them in the schedule only after the segment is completed. Then you have five minutes to relax and get back to work. Such a schedule allows to see that you’re moving forward, and not to be afraid.
Procrastination destroys careers and families, causes anxiety, depression and much more. But has a useful property too. Procrastination is a sure sign that your whole nature protests against the task. So, in fact you do not want neither this project nor this diploma or this client. This is not what you need. If this is not what you need, may be it worth to delegate it? Or to give up? Or hire someone in the end?
To abandon unnecessary things is generally a good path. Perhaps procrastination is not so bad. All those who write about procrastination, talk about struggling with it. But to tell the truth it is impossible. You can do an infinite number of things any time. Whatever you’re doing, you’re not doing something else any way. So the question is not how to deal with it, but how to use it for good.
There are three variants of procrastination: when you do nothing, when you’re doing something less important and when you’re doing something more important. The last option is the right one.
Example of such an option is when a scientist who is focused on his task forgets to shave or to eat. He is busy with something more important. Good procrastination is when you’re doing business and not affairs, which will be hardly included into your biography.
The bottom line is that a large businesse needs something that is absolutely not necessary for small affairs: long period of time and the right attitude. If you captured a large new project, it may be wise to postpone all the affairs for a couple of days? Commit yourself to a big business, while you have spirit and strength. Yes, you have a bunch of small affairs, but in two days you will make a lot more if you’re not distracted.
Startups often work much more effectively in the very beginning, when the team consists of only two people, and their office is an apartment in a residential area. Nobody and nothing distracts them. And when they grow and hire people, they immediately begin to procrastinate doing less important things. And soon the whole company starts to echo them.
Small affairs and distraction kill any project. Imagine that a person has decided to write a book. And then he realizes that he needs to tidy up the house. And so on and so forth. People who could not write a book for years, in fact do not sit looking at a blank sheet all day long. They feed their cats, go to the hardware store for bulbs, meet with friends in a cafe, check e-mail. They say that they have no time to work. That’s right. They do their best to have no time.