Procrastination can be best described as the avoidance of starting or completing a task that should be done. Often we replace unwanted tasks with more enjoyable ones instead, or we carry out less urgent tasks rather than the more urgent and important ones, which leads us to putting off impending tasks to a later time, or even never getting round to them at all.
Does this sound familiar to you? Do you avoid having that difficult conversation with a member of staff, instead spending time with happier colleagues? Do you leave your finances or spreadsheets unmanaged, instead occupying yourself working with children or parents?
We all have preferred learning and working styles, and I like to match my tasks with my mood – if at all possible (life does not always allow for it). And sometimes this includes scheduling tasks to the time of the day, or day of the week, that best suits my style or motivations. I like to get the uninteresting things done in the morning, which gives me a sense of achievement and relief, and allows me to be open to more conversations, distractions and creative work after the inevitable celebratory and rewarding lunch. If I have a column to write, last thing on a Friday is ideal (which happens to be when I am writing this one!). It leaves me feeling happy, productive, and imaginative. And I can cross it off my ‘to do’ list as well.
The ways in which we each procrastinate are really useful signpost questions. And we need to take notice of them. Think about the following common examples, do they connect with some of your behaviours?
- Before a difficult job do you clean and tidy up everything first?
- Do you fantasise about crises and interruptions taking you away from unwanted tasks?
- Do you doubt you can complete specific tasks at all, thinking you don’t have the skills?
- Do you over estimate the time a task will take?
- Do you think you can never find enough time in your diary to start a job in the first place?
- Is there always time to chat and catch up with people, even when you have a pressing deadline?
- Is your ‘to do’ list including the same uncompleted task every day, week or month?
- Do you leave difficult jobs to the end of the day, and go home instead of finishing them?
- Do you say ‘well, another day won’t hurt will it?’
- Do you eventually have to work late, at the weekends, or on holiday, to get those avoided jobs done?
- Do you often miss deadlines, or complete at the very last minute?
If any of these questions resonate, ask yourself: what are they are telling you about how you could change your routines and approach to work? What should you be doing, how, and when to meet your preferred working style? And make the necessary changes to increase your enjoyment at work.