You have an extremely important task in hand, but you can’t possibly start without first having an elaborate lunch, and then tackling that six-month-old coffee stain on your desk in case it distracts you. Sound familiar?
Procrastination – a long word which sounds better to the ear than saying ‘I have a problem with avoiding work’ – blights even the best of us and has been complained about for millennia. Among those was the apparently frustrated Roman ruler Marcus Aurelius, who famously warned that humans must “know that a limit has been set to your time.”
And yet, as deadlines approach we ignore the bubbling guilt, and still take an hour to make a fried egg sandwich and make the trip to a specialist varnish shop to shift the coffee mark from the otherwise perfectly wipeable desk.
So, how can we tackle the issue?
One desperate-sounding user on the question and answer website Quora posed a similar problem, admitting: “I'm stuck in a vicious cycle because I procrastinate, waste time, get distracted and focus on non-priorities.
“How can I improve my situation?”
Perfection isn't everything
User Chu Chia-Li gave one of the most popular answers, and recommended the advice of Dr Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.
While her ideas are not directly related to solving procrastination, she has spent her career studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.
Watch Dr Brown's TED Talk on The Power of Vulnerabilty below.
In a recent video on the Inc. website, she aruged that: "vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity and motivation. Without vulnerability how can we innovate?”
Her words cut to the reason we procrastinate: according to psychologists, it is caused by an underlying fear of failing. Time-wasting is a method for avoiding potential pain. If we don’t try too hard, we will never see our full potential – and that saves us from being fully judged by others.
But, as Dr Brown suggests, by embracing the fact that everyone can be vulnerable it can become easier to reassess why you are procrastinating.
Don’t bully yourself
Another user, Mohammed Kabbani, described a “victim-dictator” relationship on the Quora thread. When he was unhappy about life, an inner “dictator” would emerge and berate him, demanding punishments. This was followed by internal victimisation and retaliation.
“The victim would try and sabotage all of the dictator's plans.
‘We better binge on all this food before the dictator gets back and forces us to diet again!’,” he wrote.
His solution – simple written down but harder to implement – was to be “kind to yourself”.
This idea smacks of the phenomena of self-sabotage, which again harks back to the fear of failure.
So, when a job must be done, it's best to get started at any point in the task and not think too much about the future.
Studies suggest that setting small tasks boosts motivation and changes how you perceive the task, according to Psychology Today.
Now, stop reading this article and get on with your work.
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