Overcoming Procrastination

As professional business people taking ownership and being accountable should be a fundamental partprocrastination of the way we work. This means we must make decisions. However, when we procrastinate we are not doing this. So what causes otherwise rational adults to become habitual procrastinators?

Many busy people excuse their habit of putting things off by telling themselves, and other people, that the thing they are procrastinating about is because of conflicting priorities. In a previous blog we looked at the three situations when deliberate procrastination is a good thing to do. But what if none of these three reasons apply? In these cases we must not procrastinate but take action, and the first step is to understand why we might be procrastinating.

There are four very common reasons why people procrastinate. These are:

  1. They do not have effective time management skills and knowledge
  2. They lack personal motivation
  3. They suffer from low self-confidence
  4. They have no clear goals or purpose

This last point is important, and often overlooked. Procrastination is common in situations where we don’t fully understand where the task we are procrastinating about fits into the broader strategic agenda. And it is also common in situations where we are unclear about the end result we are trying to achieve. So a key to overcoming procrastination is to ensure you are clear on the end objective and how this fits into the bigger picture of what the department and your company are trying to achieve.

Sometimes we do know what we want to achieve but we don’t believe that we can complete the task. Our lack of self-confidence makes us hesitate in case we fail. If you find yourself procrastinating because of these doubts and fears, start by writing them down and analysing them. The very act of bringing them out into the open helps you to identify which fears are illogical and (if they are genuine risks to your success) to plan to avoid or mitigate these.

Personal motivation is often low in situations where we feel that we are not in control. This happens when other people regularly set the deadlines and the agenda on our behalf. This makes us feel that the task is not ours to own. Whilst you will always have to accommodate tasks with deadlines set by others, you can help to alleviate the low motivation this can cause by ensuring that at any one time you have some important but not urgent activities to work on. These tend to be the tasks and projects we enjoy doing and we feel in control of. Such activities help to motivate us and develop us. They make us feel as if we control our time, our energy and our resources. They help us to become proactive professionals rather than reactors

If any of the four reasons identified here are the reason you procrastinate, then you need to act now to address the root cause of this unhelpful and unprofessional behaviour.