As a child, I liked very few vegetables. As my parents regarded a balanced diet as a requirement rather than a lifestyle choice, they continued to serve them to me. To start with, I’d leave the vegetables until last which rather spoilt the other food too. I felt like those sprouts were staring me out, just waiting for me to blink! Eventually I developed a coping strategy: eat the dreaded veggies first, getting them out of the way so that I could enjoy the rest of my meal without the mean greens taunting me. In my naïve mind, I felt like I was beating them rather than simply eating them!
There can be some sprouts on our ‘to do’ lists too: those unpleasant jobs you just don’t want to do. My experience was that some of the vegetables weren’t as bad as I thought; some of them were grim – either way they were gone! Perhaps you could apply this to a task you just keep putting off, planning it in for first thing to get it out of the way. How can you reward yourself once it’s done?
Dislike isn’t the only reason for procrastinating though. What else gets in the way of us getting on?
When I was at uni in Russia, there was frequently only one choice on a menu or one option in a shop so the stress of decision-making was completely taken away. We live in a world where we have so much choice that sometimes we find ourselves putting off a decision in case something better comes along. Why not set a deadline for a decision and see what happens?
Sometimes we feel that if we can’t do a job perfectly, it’s better not to do it at all. How can you combat that? If you notice this in a team member, how can you support them? Would ensuring that objectives are clear, milestones are set along the way and maintaining a focus on the end result help?
The old joke ‘how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time’ makes sense here. A huge goal seems so daunting that we never start. Breaking the process down into smaller goals and being able to complete one of them, however small, can ease us into the task.
Sometimes other things just keep on getting in the way. Why not try the 15 minute rule to see if that helps? Book yourself sometime away from your desk; switch off your phone and email; what else could you do to stay on track?
It’s just not important enough
The washing machine with a sporadic leak – the training course you’d quite like to attend – the paper you really ought to finish but no-one’s chasing you for: we’ve all got our own examples. What are the implications of not completing the task? A flooded kitchen? Withdrawn training budget? Missed opportunities? Plan it in now, set yourself a deadline, make yourself accountable to a friend or colleague if that will help.
All this being said, I think there’s sometimes a place for a considered delay. There’s no point setting the date for your office move unless you know the previous occupants will have moved out. However, for those instances where delaying isn’t justified, working out why you’re putting things off can sometimes help you to deal with them.
Today’s pebble for your perusal: are you procrastinating? Why?
What do you think?