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According to Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Equation, around 95% of people engage in some form of procrastination.

What’s more, research indicates that there has been a five-fold increase in procrastination over the last few decades. That’s because our modern world has more and more appealing temptations.

Procrastination is often an issue that comes up in Future Proof Learning’s Individual Coaching and Team Coaching sessions, and in our Leadership Development Programmes. This is not surprising, given that nearly all of us put off completing important tasks.

If you’re ‘one of us’, a fellow procrastinator, then read on and find out how you can overcome procrastination once and for all.

Why do we procrastinate?

Often, we procrastinate as a response to something that we find stressful, unpleasant or undesirable and the stronger the feeling, the more likely we are to procrastinate.

The reasons differ from person to person, but some of the most common reasons for procrastination are:

  • Stress/overwhelm
  • Boredom
  • Frustration
  • Lack of structure or direction
  • Lack of motivation and drive

What can we do to avoid procrastination?

There is a lot we can do to manage procrastination, but too many options can be overwhelming in themselves.

With that in mind, I created a simple, 3-step process for dealing with procrastination:

  1. Identify your triggers
  2. Take action
  3. Reward yourself

1. Identify your procrastination triggers

Almost everyone procrastinates at some point, but for those of us that are serial procrastinators, there is likely to be a pattern to our behaviour, and noticing the pattern is the first step.

Take just 5 minutes to reflect on your current “procrastination list” and ask yourself all the following questions:

  • How do you feel about the tasks you haven’t done yet?
  • What is keeping you in this state of inaction?
  • How would you feel if the tasks were done, or even just started?

Now move to Step 2.

2. Take action

Imagine you’re faced with eating an elephant, what’s the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Often, we convince ourselves that the task is too big or scary to handle and we end up paralysed by that anxiety.

The reality is that we don’t need to eat the entire elephant right now; we only need to take a single bite.

So what is the most manageable action you can take, what is your single bite? It can be anything. The important thing is just to do something, and to do it as soon as possible.

The sooner we take action, the sooner we get to the finish line.

Time for Step 3.

3. Reward yourself

This is the most important part of the process. Rather than jumping straight into “the next thing”, now is the time to reflect on our progress and to reap the rewards.

We’ve all heard of the Pavlovian response, and here’s where we can take advantage of it. Having checked in with ourselves and taken action to keep procrastination at bay, now we want to reward ourselves to encourage the same response in future.

The reward is up to you, but it’s important to keep it in perspective. We can’t have a huge blowout after every micro-success, so make it something manageable.

Most of us find ourselves glued to the desk for too long, so why not reward yourself with a well-earned break? If you want to fully capitalise on the break, get outside and into the fresh air for a few minutes.

If getting outside isn’t possible (or desirable) then take a few minutes to do something you enjoy and try to enjoy it mindfully, engaging with the activity and being present.

More techniques for beating procrastination

At our webinar, you’ll learn some more techniques for beating procrastination, such as, how to:

  • Break tasks into manageable steps.
  • Start with the hardest or easiest task.
  • Give yourself permission to make mistakes – don’t be a perfectionist!
  • Make tasks easier to do and more enjoyable.
  • Remove distractions.
  • Set deadlines and share them with others to commit to delivery.
  • Increase your motivation.
  • Increase your energy: listen to motivating music or have a break with some exercise.
  • Use winning time-management techniques: write a to-do list and set achievable deadlines.
  • Get some help from a colleague or friend.

Trying to stop being a perfectionist can be a great help. Remember that you don’t need to make your task perfect just now; the most important thing is to get started.

“The really happy people are those who have broken the chains of procrastination, those who find satisfaction in doing the job at hand. They’re full of eagerness, zest, productivity. You can be, too.” (Norman Vincent Peale, American positive thinking pioneer)

If you want to find out more about how you can beat procrastination once and for all, join us on Tuesday 21st February from 10:00-11:00 for our free webinar, Overcoming Procrastination.