Editor’s Note: This month we are pleased to publish a guest post by Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D. Nationally recognized psychologist, Kathleen G. Nadeau, Ph.D., has many years helping children, teens and adults to learn better planning and organizational skills. Dr. Nadeau is the brains behind, Skoach, an integrated online time management and task planning tool.
Figure out why you procrastinate, then match your strategy to motivate accordingly.
Procrastination can be caused by several things. You may procrastinate because you don’t enjoy a task. You may procrastinate because a task is large and challenging to organize. Or, you may procrastinate because you aren’t sure how to accomplish the task.
1. Procrastination due to dislike of an activity
If you procrastinate because you don’t like a task, look for ways to increase task appeal such as:
* Make it into a game, and keep score.
* Make it into a game, competing with others.
* Listen to upbeat music while doing it. Schedule a reward immediately after you complete it.
2. Procrastination due to overwhelm
If you’re avoiding a task because it is lengthy and overwhelming, then “divide and conquer”:
* Break the large task into separate, short-term segments.
* Then check off each segment as an accomplished short-term task.
3. Procrastination due to inertia
If you procrastinate because you have difficulty initiating a task, create something to react to. Tasks that can be reacted to are easier to begin than those that you must initiate yourself.
* Work on the task with others – then you can react to their questions, emails, etc.
* Establish a deadline with your supervisor.
4. Procrastination due to lack of organization
Sometimes we procrastinate on beginning a large project because we haven’t organized the task and don’t know where to start. If you can’t seem to get a project organized:
* Think through the task.
* Talk with your supervisor or collaborators to plan it.
* Break the larger task into do-able segments.
* Create a list of resources and supplies needed to accomplish the task.
* Create a timeline for the task.
* Then schedule the first segment of the task.
* Create an email or text reminder for this segment.
5. Procrastination on difficult tasks
Not all tasks can be made easy, but if you find a task particularly difficult, you must analyze how it can become easier.
* Do you need help?
* More training?
* More practice?
* More assistance from other?
* Analyze what is making the task so difficult, and then get the help you need to succeed.
6. Procrastination at certain times of day
More challenging tasks should be done at whatever time of day you seem to feel more focused and energetic. Take note of your daily rhythms, and then try to schedule the most avoided tasks for the time of day when you’ll have more energy to tackle them.
Problem-solve and apply your solution
To combat patterns of procrastination, select a task that you keep putting off. Then look at the list of possible solutions above and choose one that you think is most likely to be helpful.
Pick one (or more) of these solutions, and keep track over the next few weeks. Are you getting things done on a consistent basis? If so, keep up the good work! Your new solutions will soon become habits that require very little effort to maintain.
Final note for severe or chronic procrastinators
Some people seem to have a generally low level of motivation and tend to put off all tasks that take energy or effort. These people are classic “couch potatoes” that would rather do “nothing” than anything at all. If you fall into the couch potato category, you may actually struggle with chronic, low level depression.
Others are couch potatoes due to chronic sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, or poor physical fitness. If you feel as if everything is too much trouble, then get a medical check-up to see if depression or some other health problem is playing a role in always putting things off.