Wouldn’t it be nice to work less, and still create more? Psychologist Dr. Ferrari reveals how to get the biggest enemy of efficiency – procrastination – under control.
“I can’t do it today, I’ll just do it tomorrow.” If this statement sounds like one of your standard excuses, then it might well be the case that you are a so-called procrastinator. Not all people who put unpleasant tasks on the back burner are pathological delayers. The propensity to postpone is innate. The causes of procrastination are, therefore, far deeper than could be explained simply by poor time management.
Trapped in the vicious cycle of procrastination
The psychologist and procrastination expert Dr. Joseph Ferrari is convinced that about 20% of people worldwide suffer from procrastination. According to Ferrari, procrastination is not just the mere shifting of activities and the waiting for solutions, but “a conscious decision not to act”. Do you already know the procrastination vicious cycle? According to Ferrari, if you are haunted by negative emotions, and you allow them to take hold, then you are no longer guaranteed to be productive. The graphic explains this phenomenon vividly:
Procrastination has nothing to do with laziness or bad organization. People move (not just unpleasant) tasks because they are not in the right mood to complete them. Unfinished tasks become automatically stressful, and the result is that you distract yourself with light and pleasant tasks – surfing the web, checking your email, clearing your desk, chatting with colleagues…but never getting to the important task. Then, in the end, you feel guilty for having wasted so much time.
The 2-step method
Ferrari advises a two-step process to try and break this vicious cycle:
- Understand the “why”
Ask yourself, what could be the reason why you don’t tackle the seemingly difficult task? Are you dissatisfied with your job? Do you have to repeatedly push your team to complete tasks? Do you carry too many loads alone? Take the time and reflect on the reason why you procrastinate – this is a great way to understand your behavior and determine the root causes.
- Develop strategies
The next step is to develop and apply strategies. Before you begin a task, identify potential obstacles that need to be cleared out of the way. After you have done this basic work, then move on to fine-tuning and execution.
Burkhard Heidenberger, trainer for Time Management and Working Methodology, has put together tips and tricks, which he himself also likes to use to beat threatening procrastination.
- Set a small reward for yourself
- Work on a task for five minutes
- Start a regular countdown before you start
- Know the consequences of your “doing nothing”
- Start with the most unpleasant task
And if all this does not yet help, Heidenberger recommends that you introduce a regular day of action in which you devote yourself exclusively to unfinished tasks. Schedule this day firmly in your calendar, and make sure you remember it. Write down everything you want to do on this day, and simply delete any task after completion from your list. You’ll soon realize how good it feels good to check off those tasks as completed.
About the author
Jörg Peter Urbach is the author, editor and blogger of Sprachleidenschaft. He has been writing for more than 25 years, for print and online. Concepts. Stories. Journal articles. After studying musicology and German language and literature, Jörg Peter worked as an editorial manager in the classical music business. As long-time chief editor of the portal wissen.de, he knows how to inspire readers with clever topics.
If the native Kieler is not writing, he is walking through the Alps. Or listening to the opera. With mindfulness.