According to a psychological bulletin, documentation of procrastination dates as far back as 500 BC when Hindu deity Krishna associated procrastination with less-than-friendly terms such as "...vulgar, stubborn, malicious, and lazy."
But is procrastination really that bad?
Some would say no. They would argue that procrastination provides the mind with infinite opportunities to exercise creativity, as there are infinite ways to avoid a targeted task.
Several of these common procrastination phenomena include:
- Social Media. Have you ever counted how many times you check for status updates on Facebook? If you haven't, don't try - it will only make you question your priorities in life, which is always an exhausting process.
- Texting. Isn't it funny how there is always an abundance of people to text when you have a project looming over your head?
- Sleep. No need for explanation here.
- Organization. When faced with an abominable project, personal organization reaches critical priority levels. Arranging your closet by color becomes priority, demanding your immediate attention.
- Preparation. This is when we plan how to finish the targeted task by creating elaborate, color coded to-do lists with an intricate matrix of checkboxes, and checkboxes within checkboxes, all without addressing the actual project - not even for a minute.
- Finding ways to look busy. Procrastination allows for the discovery of novel methods of looking busy, such as walking to and from the office copy room, or wandering aimlessly around the office with an important-looking paper in hand.
- The Scan. Visually scour the targeted project, worry about it, create a few more checkboxes, then put it away so you can check (again) for Facebook updates.
The problem of procrastination: Why people put things off
While procrastination is a peculiar phenomenon, it's also a predictable one. According toresearch psychologists, there are certain situations within which procrastination is likely to occur.
- Costly Up-Front Investment. When the act of starting a project requires large amounts of time and resources, procrastinate is likely to seep in.
- Salience. According to Economist Nobel Prize Winner George Akerlof (1991), we tend to the problems that are most salient at the moment, making the very important targeted task seem less important. For example, the fact that your kitchen floor needs to be polished will skyrocket to the the top of your to-do list, leaving that important targeted task in the dust.
- Uncertainty. Most of us will avoid a project or task when we are uncertain of how to approach it. We simply aren't willing to put aside the familiar (and more amusing) tasks for the confusing and obscure. We migrate into an immobile, dysfunctional stupor that allows us only the ability to check for Twitter tweets on a repeating 5-minute cycle.
- Perfectionism & Fear of Failure. Many feel that any action they take to start a project will not be sufficient. And the fear of making a mistake can be overwhelming. This pressure to be perfect causes project paralysis, delaying any progress whatsoever. Instead of addressing the project itself, people choose to tend to the anxiety associated with the project. For example, one might try to reduce project-induced angst by shopping or watching YouTube videos for hours on end.
- Just Plain Don't Want To. This is a viable reason. You're tired, you're burnt out. Sometimes we just don't want to do it, or can't find the motivation to try. No need to elaborate - we've all been here.
Most people procrastinate; yet most don't want to procrastinate, they just don't know how to fix the problem. Procrastination is a sly and stubborn beast, and most lack the tools necessary for combat. Project management is prime territory for procrastination, so we aim to simplify project management, therefore eliminating incidences of procrastination.
Three tips to stop procrastination in its tracks
- Maintain Focus.
While the big picture is indeed important, being able to focus on the task at hand without being overwhelmed by the immensity of a project is important too. When you log into your ProProfs Project dashboard, you'll see only what you need to complete today.
- Divide Big Tasks Into Digestible Chunks.
Dividing projects into separate chunks eases uncertainty while fighting perfectionism and fear of failure. The 3,000 foot view is a great way to evaluate the general status of the project (e.g. reviewing your overall task list). But you can also break larger tasks down into subtasks by hiding the other tasks with tags. This is another way to view your project and break the process down to manageable proportions.
- Make the Starting Steps Easy.
Beginning a project can be overwhelming for everyone involved, thus inviting procrastination. Keep procrastination at bay by making the beginning of your projects as simple as possible; invite your team to collaborate the moment you set up a project. Instigate discussion by threading your email replies to comments when you reply to the notification.
We all know that procrastination can be incredibly tempting; the wealth of amusing yet useless information that can be found on Facebook and YouTube is a siren's call that is hard to ignore.
But we also know that procrastination can be the one thing that stops us from achieving our goals. Fighting procrastination is just a matter of having the right tools, and ProProfs Project is the perfect place to start. It's simple to setup and takes just a few minutes to learn. So, it's now time to stop procrastinating with this article and get back to work.