How to beat the ‘procrastination monster’

By: Marta Evans, Change & Communications Consultant 11/01/2016 Categories: Blog

So you have known about the deadline to get X/Y/Z done for months/weeks/days…and suddenly you realise you only have weeks/days/hours to finish the job and you haven’t even started! You feel sick to your stomach and are annoyed and disappointed with yourself. “How did I let this happen? How could I waste all this time?

Sound familiar?

When it comes to getting jobs done, most of us have fallen into the trap of procrastination. Sometimes it’s large, complex pieces of work which seem so daunting that we can’t even face the pain of starting them. Sometimes it’s mundane, boring tasks that somehow we never get around to do.

We procrastinate and procrastinate and in the meantime, come up with a myriad of reasons why we cannot possibly complete the task at hand. We busy ourselves with other (probably less important) things, so that in the end, we don’t have time left to write that report. We wait for the ideal conditions to start creating that big presentation. We say to ourselves “I work much better under pressure so it’s actually better to do this when I only have a few days left…” But deep down we know exactly what we are doing and feel resentful that we have been letting things slip once again.

What can we do to beat the procrastination monster?

Here are three useful techniques:

1. Clear goals and benefits

What are the wider benefits of getting done what you have been putting off? Think about all the reasons why completing this task will be valuable for you. For example, “If I make this presentation before the end of the month, I’ll have a better chance of being put forward for promotion.” If it helps, write down what you want to achieve and the benefits you’ll get. Maybe even create a picture?

2. Identity-based drivers

Think about your relationship to the task at hand and how it relates to your personal drivers. Finish the sentence: “I am the kind of person who…” to come up with statements that represent you and motivate you to finish the task. For example, “I am the kind of person who does what they say they will” or “I am the kind of person who likes the idea of presenting their ideas in front of their boss and colleagues”. Be realistic and aspirational, considering how you’ll feel when you have managed to get the job done.

3. Break down the task

What is the smallest step you can take today to make some progress? Create a plan and break down the task to small, manageable chunks – allocate time and think about who can support you along the way. Consider when you are at your most productive and tackle the task then. If it helps, try and constrain yourself so that you don’t get overwhelmed e.g. work no more than an hour on the task each day.

Finally, don’t forget to reward yourself when you’ve been successful!

Source: Watts, G., & Morgan, K. (2015). The coach's casebook: Mastering the twelve traits that trap us.