We've all been there: you have a lot of things you need to do, but somehow you find yourself alphabetising your spice cabinet. And when that's done you feel kind of guilty about not doing the things you should have been doing. But hey, at least you've got a neat spice cabinet now.
You're not just being lazy, you're procrastinating. After all, alphabetising takes effort and concentration and it's not like you're putting your chores off by hanging out with your friends or watching television. So, what is procrastination and how do you beat it?
The word procrastination is derived from the Latin verb 'procrastinate' which means to put off till tomorrow. But procrastinating is more than just voluntarily putting things off. It's also derived from the Greek word 'akrasia'. Which means doing something against your better judgement. So, now that we know that we voluntarily put things off against our better judgement, it's time to take a look at the deeper meaning behind why we procrastinate.
“Procrastination is an emotion regulation problem, not a time management problem,” said Dr. Tim Pychyl, professor of psychology and member of the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University in Ottawa.
In a study from 2013 Dr. Pychyl and Dr. Sirois discovered that we procrastinate because our brains find that managing our bad mood is more urgent than any other task you might have to complete. So wait, we procrastinate because we're in a bad mood? Essentially, yes.
This 'bad mood' depends on the task that needs to be done. Whether it's something about it you really don't like doing, like analysing endless Excel spreadsheets. But it can also stem from a deeper issue, like insecurity, anxiety or self-doubt. Say you have to write a blog, but you're so insecure about your writing skills you constantly think no one's going to like this. This can lead to putting off writing that blog, which will eventually lead to you having negative feelings towards it which will give you even more anxiety about writing it and so on and so forth. It's a never ending cycle.
So, now that we know all of this, how do we beat our bad habit of procrastinating? We'll give you 5 tips that make dreadful tasks a bit easier to complete.
1. Create an inspiring environment
Let's be honest, it's much more fun to work at a nice desk or in a pretty office than looking at a boring white wall the entire day. It's also great for your creativity and productivity. So buy a few plants and put some decorations on your desk, you'll feel less averted to spending your day at your desk.
2. Make a to do checklist
Having a clear overview makes it easier to keep track of what you still have to do. Plus it's really fun checking off the things you already did. Look at it like a competition, every task you can check off brings you a little bit closer to the finish. You can even reward yourself for finishing the checklist. We know from basic behaviourism that when we are rewarded for something, we tend to do it more often. A win-win.
3. Break up your work in smaller steps
Breaking up your work in smaller steps will make you finish those steps faster. So you can check it off your list faster, which makes you feel like you've done more, which in turn gives you a greater feeling of accomplishment. It also gives you a clear overview of how big the task at hand actually is.
4. Visualise yourself finishing your work
Nothing gets you going like picturing yourself finishing your work. It works on athletes, so why wouldn't it work on your work? Picture the joy you'll feel when that awful task is finally done. You'll get to work in no-time.
5. Just do it
At the end of the day, the task needs to be done whether you do it immediately or organise your spice cabinet first. So why not just do it? We find that just starting and pulling through helps a lot. It also give you great satisfaction when you finish. You did it! Yay!
Now, go finish organising that spice cabinet, before you start procrastinating that too. ;)