Do you suffer from procrastination? I sure do. I often hear people express their displeasure with their own procrastination. It seems to be a universal problem. I recently read a great article that explains why it is so common. It also explains that we don't procrastinate because of laziness or because of poor time management. Instead, we do it because we give in to our impulses and we also fail to "think about thinking." The article goes on to explain what that means. (It is part of a web site that is dedicated to exploring self delusion. It's called You Are Not So Smart and I highly recommend it.)
An interesting thing I have noticed is that the people I hear expressing the most guilt about procrastination often are people that I consider very hard workers. In other words, the people that I think procrastinate the least are the very ones that think they do it the most. Why is that?
It could be that a result of recognizing your procrastination is that it makes you do it less. If you think you procrastinate you will be less likely to do it. That is probably only a partial reason. Surely there must be more to it than that.
Another possible reason could be that these people are more ambitious. They try to do a lot, which leads them to do more, but also procrastinate more because of the simple fact that they have more things to procrastinate. People like me that are lacking in ambition don't procrastinate as much because we don't really have any tasks to procrastinate. I'm not procrastinating that yard work...I just don't think it needs to be done.
Another article I read talks about "good procrastination" and "bad procrastination." You only have a limited amount of time, but an unlimited number of things that you wish you could do. You will inevitably have to procrastinate something. The key is to procrastinate the right things. The article does a good job of helping you not feel guilty about procrastination, as long as it's the good kind. It also explains the cause of bad procrastination and gives some strategies to help you avoid it.
I am no expert on avoiding procrastination, but I do have a few strategies that I try. Better organization helps, but it needs to be more than just making a to-do list. If I don't look at it again it's pretty much worthless. I find that I need to check the list at least twice a day and schedule my time accordingly. But that is no cure-all. I still need to muster the will power to actually do the items on the list. Also, the list needs to be realistic. A wish-list of anything I ever wanted to do doesn't help, and may actually make me more likely to procrastinate because the items are overly ambitious.
Another anti-procrastination strategy I use is to employ little tricks to help me start on a task. For example, I break it down into smaller tasks and then do the easiest one. This helps me avoid feeling overwhelmed. Once I'm finished with the little task, I get a feeling of accomplishment and have momentum to keep going.
Which tasks are you most likely to procrastinate? What strategies do you use to avoid putting things off? I'd love to hear your comments.