What are you putting off?
Right now, there’s something important you haven’t done. How do I know? Because we all procrastinate to some degree.
I procrastinated writing this blog post – for quite some time. But when I thought about why, I couldn’t come up with a good reason. I just didn’t want to do it. This made me realize that there are two ways I categorize my work: 1) Things I look forward to doing , and 2) Things I don’t want to do.
I tend to approach the things I like doing directly, with enthusiasm, while the things I don’t like doing keep getting moved to the bottom of the to-do list. I have trouble staying focused when I do work on them. (I checked my social media accounts twice just while writing the previous paragraph.)
Does this sound familiar to you?
I’m not alone – procrastination affects us all. I talked to a number of friends and colleagues about this, and they all had similar experiences. The only difference was that some with more determination than I have will attack their “don’t want to do it” list first, knowing they needed to get through it – but it still wasn’t a pleasurable experience for them.
Over the years I’ve been presented a variety of strategies for how to avoid procrastination: Do what you find hardest first; break down big tasks; set deadlines; create accountability measures; celebrate when you finish tasks… All these are valid approaches.
But what if we just re-framed our work so we no longer found it unpleasant? What if – instead of having to do our work, we actually wanted to do it? This actually is possible when you do the following three things:
1) Consider the big picture. Why do you have to do the thing you have to do? There must be a reason, and the reason is probably important. Another way to think of it is: what is your intended outcome, and how will doing the thing you don’t want to do help you accomplish that outcome? Once you approach your work from this perspective you’ll find more of a reason to get the job done.
2) Think about the reward. Doing the thing you don’t want to do will produce one of two positive experiences – it will either bring you pleasure or create absence from pain (or, in some cases, both). When you focus on how you will feel when done, you’ll be more motivated to push forward and finish the tasks you find undesirable.
3) Make the choice. We always have a choice as to how we respond to the things around us. How you approach a task can actually change your feelings about that task. If you choose to approach a task with a positive attitude, you are more likely to find pleasure in working on the task – which also means you are more likely to get it done quickly, avoiding distractions, since you will find the experience enjoyable.
You’ll be surprised at what a difference this makes! Try this three-step approach the next time procrastination strikes, and let me know how it works for you.
Jene Kapela, Ed.D.
You can reach Jene at firstname.lastname@example.org.