How to stop procrastinating
Putting everything off until the last minute – or until you've missed vital deadlines – can wreak havoc with your life, not to mention the lives of those around you. So why do you do it? Why avoid tasks you know must be completed, turning simple jobs into stress-inducing hassles?
Understanding why we procrastinate is step one in dealing with it. From a cognitive therapy perspective, there are a number of reasons to procrastinate:
- Anxiety. Perhaps the number one cause of procrastination – we avoid doing things because we're scared of the consequences (or our imagined consequences). We don't write the report because we think our boss will criticise it harshly. We don't apply for a new job because we're scared of interviews. We don't ask a gorgeous girl out because we fear she'll reject us. If you're anxious about something, each time you put it off the anxiety level drops a little, but then starts rising again as the deadline approaches – and is generally far worse than if we had just knuckled down and done it. As life strategies go, it's clearly not up there with the best.
- Low frustration tolerance (LFT). Another common cause – LFT means your inability to endure frustration, boredom, hard work, uncomfortable feelings, setbacks, etc so unpleasant tasks are avoided or quickly abandoned. An example? Every year, I put my tax return off to the last minute – I find managing my accounts eye-wateringly dull, so keep putting it off until I'm stressed out, rushing to meet the deadline, which stresses my accountant out, means they have to work overtime and charge me double to get it filed on time. Often, they can't, so I end up paying the Revenue a fine too. Again, as strategies go, not one of my most effective.
- Rebellion. When you boss chucks yet another folder into your in-tray, behind your grim smile lies a seething resentment at being dumped on yet again. Why do you always get the crappy jobs? So what do you do? Avoid it, pretend it's not there, make excuses, call in sick – anything but deal with that damn folder. Unfortunately, as in the previous examples, the only one who suffers is you. And if your boss suffers too, they will surely make you pay for it too.
There are many other reasons to procrastinate, including perfectionism, being a dreamer, excessive worry, taking too much on... sound familiar? If you would like some help from me you can contact my assistant, Dawn Cope, on 0208 318 5735 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, the golden rule of anti-procrastination: Just do it now!