We’ve all done it. In fact, studies show that from time-to-time nearly everyone puts off tasks they know they should do right away. But why do we procrastinate? And more importantly, how can we overcome the urge to do so? Today, Ignitia Office examines some of the leading causes – and cures – of procrastination.
In his work, Solving the Procrastination Puzzle, researcher Timothy Pychyl claims there are seven main triggers for why we procrastinate. The seven reasons given are when we find tasks:
-Lacking in Personal Meaning
-Not Intrinsically Rewarding
One of the first ways we can start to overcome our procrastination on a task is by identifying which of these seven categories is preventing you from doing your work. Once you identify what exactly is holding you back, it can be much easier to address the problem going forward.
In order to address the problem, Pychyl says most people find it useful to take one of the following steps:
Just Get Started
When facing a task we dread often it is the notion that this task must be completed in one sitting that overwhelms us. According to Pychyl, one of the most effective ways to combat this feeling is by letting go of the idea that we will have to complete the entire task all at once. Instead, Pychyl recommends to simply begin the task. According to Pychyl, typically once you overcome the initial hurdle of actually starting the project and are actually working on it, you will often end up spending much more time on it than you even originally anticipated.
Practice ‘Implementation Intentions’
One of the most helpful tools in combating procrastination is what Pychyl calls, ‘Implementation Intentions’. Also known as IF-THEN statements, these can be incredibly powerful. What an implementation intention does is essentially create a rudimentary plan for the work. According to Pychyl, by simply answering the questions of when, where, and how you will do the work you have greatly increases your chances of actually performing the task. The reason for this is that by answering these ‘when, where, and how’ questions, you establish in your mind an IF directive. For example, if you tell yourself, ‘On Sunday, after breakfast, I will study in my room’, you have established in your mind an anticipation of work directive. Thus, when the ‘after breakfast on Sunday’ predetermination is fulfilled, your mind automatically shifts to the THEN portion of the process and prepares to fulfill the work portion of the process and thus close the cycle. Implementation intentions are incredible useful and are often the only tool individuals need in order to complete their task.
Avoid the One Minute Rule
One of the biggest fallacies we engage in when we procrastinate is called the, ‘One Minute Rule’. The rule states that the thing we are allowing us to become distracted will only take a minute. For example, if you are working and are suddenly struck with the urge to check Facebook, the reason you tell yourself it is okay to do so is the fact that it will ‘only take one minute’. This however, is almost never the case. Instead, one quick check on Facebook soon grows into a check of email, then the news, and before you know it your attention has been derailed for much longer than you intended. Pychyl encourages people to not fall into this trap, and instead urges us to pay attention to this impulse when it arises and to refrain from indulging in it.
Studies have repeatedly shown that multi-tasking is simply not possible. Instead, what people mean when they say ‘multi-tasking’ is actually shifting their attention from one task to another in rapid succession. According to Pychyl, it is far more effective to concentrate on a single task until completion before attempting to move to any other. If we can avoid distractions such as the myth of multi-tasking, we will greatly reduce our temptations to procrastinate.
Finally, when you do catch yourself procrastinating (and you will), Pychyl suggests the best course of action is to not beat yourself up over it. Instead, Pychyl claims it is far more effective to forgive yourself for allowing your attention to stray. Pychyl claims that doing so will actually reduce instances of procrastination on similar tasks in the future. Though it may seem counterintuitive, Pychyl claims the approach works time and time again.
By utilizing the tools above you too will soon be able to reduce your instances of procrastination in the future.