Procrastination is defined as the action of delaying or postponing something. Whilst it may appear to be detrimental, as with most things, it is behaviour that is serving a purpose to protect us.
There are six different types of procrastination, they are: Perfectionist, worrier, dreamer, rebel, drama king/queen, and over-doer. Each of these serve one of our six basic needs: safety/security, variety, significance, love and connection, growth, and contribution.
Here, I’m going to take you through the three most typical forms of procrastination, and share tips to help work through it, and then look more broadly at stress to help you take back control.
The perfectionist, a procrastination technique serving our need for love and connection, gets overwhelmed by expectations. They want things to be perfect and can always improve on their work, so it feels impossible to complete tasks to their exacting standards. This procrastinator is trying to avoid being embarrassed by mistakes, or judged for substandard work.
If this is you, set yourself clear deadlines so that you can’t spend too much time on a task, and remind yourself that ‘done’ is better than ‘perfect’ – seeing as perfection does not truly exist.
You should also try to celebrate the completion, and reward yourself for getting tasks done rather than trying to make everything perfect.
The worrier seeks safety and security by procrastinating, and is driven by fear. This can be fear of failure, fear of judgement or even fear of success.
If you’re a worrier, you should get real on fears. Explore them fully and question, ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’
Try a stress-reducing activity such as breathwork, meditation, yoga, or walking. And if you have a supportive team, don’t be afraid to turn to others in times of anxiety.
The dreamer, who procrastinates when seeking variety, underestimates how long things will take, and often get bored by tasks (this relates to variety on the list of needs).
Techniques to overcome procrastination for dreamers include setting small, daily, achievable goals. Be realistic about the task and how long it will take to complete. Make a clear plan for how to tackle the task, and stick to it.
Be accountable and let co-workers know what you are working on and what the deadline is, as having check-ins can be useful, where appropriate. Rewarding yourself once you have completed small tasks will motivate you to continue.
Stress is actually necessary to grow. Just like when we build muscles by stressing them with weight training in order for that muscle to develop.
The problem comes when we perceive this stress to be beyond our capabilities. Things that can result in stress in the workplace are high demands from bosses, feeling of a lack of control, lack of support, changes within the organisation and difficult relationships with colleagues.
If you are suffering from stress, you could try the following:
The ‘four Ds’ is a time management tool that helps you manage your workload. They are: Do, Defer (Delay), Delegate, and Delete (Drop).
Many people’s stress stems from not having enough time to meet all the demands of their role, which can lead to working longer hours or weekends which can then lead to burnout. By accessing each task using this method, you can whittle out what is important and what you can remove from your to-do list.
At the beginning of your day, look at your to-do list and assess which tasks can be done quickly right now – either by you or someone else – which ones to drop altogether and which essential tasks can be left until later.
If you feel like you are unable to meet the demands of your role, speak to your boss about it. It can be daunting to admit to your boss that you are struggling, but it is much better than letting the situation continue and snowball into something that could be harder to resolve.
You could look at whether any tasks could be delegated elsewhere, they could help you come up with a plan for getting back control so that you can bring these tasks back within your perceived capabilities or explore any further training that might be relevant for helping you develop your skills.
Exercise is a fantastic stress management tool. However, when suffering from stress, your cortisol levels will be elevated, and intense exercise will add to this.
I recommend gentle exercise, such as yoga or going for a walk. If you can walk around a local park, you will have the added benefit of being in nature. Studies have shown that visiting natural environments can reduce both physical and psychological levels of stress.
This will also give your brain a rest, reducing cognitive fatigue so that you will have more focus to tackle your workload when you get back to your desk.
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