Written By Allie Perry February 9, 2024
Are you a Master of Procrastination? Do you get everything done only when your back is firmly pressed against the last possible minute?
I get it, and I’m right there with you. When it comes to managing time, most of us are about as effective as an office printer with no magenta. Seriously, if there was an award for being a Master Procrastinator, we’d all have to awkwardly squeeze in together on that top spot on the podium. I mean, obviously not today…we’ll win that thing tomorrow.
Next week at the latest.
But we all know procrastination always comes back to bite us. Case in point, for the last several weeks I’ve been tidying up a little bit of the 2023 bookkeeping for my business so I’m prepared to file my taxes this year. By “tidying up” I mean “starting from scratch” and by “a little bit” I mean “an entire year’s worth since I didn’t do any of it in real time like a functioning adult would have”.
Why Is time management so hard?
We can blame Parkinson’s Law which says work will expand to fill the time allotted to complete it. (Hence the last minute rush to complete a project.)
Or maybe it’s the Mere Urgency Effect which is the way our brain will prioritize time-sensitive tasks even at the cost of other tasks that are more important but less time-sensitive.
Maybe it’s the fact that our brains like to focus on all the things we have left to do, making us less efficient at actually concentrating on completing any of those tasks. That’s the Zeigarnik Effect.
I mean, the cognitive biases are stacked REALLY high against us. You can read more about them here. (I know you’re going to go read that instead of doing something more productive. I’m not here to judge.)
What are some Productivity Killers I should look out for?
The Art of Procrastination: Ah, procrastination – the fine art of delaying the inevitable until the very last minute. We're all guilty of it. Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow, right? Spoiler alert: tomorrow becomes today faster than you can say "I'll do it later.”
The Perils of Perfectionism: Raise your hand if you've ever spent hours agonizing over the perfect font for a presentation or tweaking the wording of an email until it's just right. *raises hand sheepishly * Perfectionism is the silent killer of productivity, my friend.
The Infinite Scroll Syndrome: Oh social media – you black hole of productivity. One innocent scroll through Instagram, and suddenly you've lost three hours of your life watching dog videos and falling deep into a rabbit hole of survival tips you’ll never need, like how to land a plane or tie a flying bowline. (But seriously, how do they do that?)
The Curse of Multitasking: We've all fallen victim to the multitasking myth – attempting to juggle a million things at once and ending up accomplishing precisely zero. Spoiler alert: our brains aren't wired to handle multiple tasks simultaneously. Who knew?
The Dreaded "Just One More Episode" Trap: I know you’ve fallen victim to the siren call of Netflix – the ultimate time-sucking vortex. It starts innocently enough with "just one more episode" and before you know it, it's 3 AM, you've binge-watched an entire season of The Great British Bake Off, and that early morning productivity you had planned for tomorrow is now a pipe dream.
The Art of Underestimation: If you’re like me, this one gets you all 👏 the 👏 time 👏. Sometimes it’s biting off more than you can chew, sometimes it’s utterly failing to accurately determine how long a task will take to complete. Either way we continue to convince ourselves that we can climb Mount Everest in a day, only to realize halfway through that we're severely unprepared and probably should've packed some snacks.
Now that I know why I procrastinate, what can I do to stop?
Procrastination is a vicious cycle of sabotaging our own productivity, rushing to finish everything in the eleventh hour and tanking the quality of our work in the process, and then doing it all over again when we start our next project.
Here are some ways you can break that cycle!
Break It Down: Big tasks can seem overwhelming, so break them down into smaller, more manageable chunks. Tackling bite-sized portions makes the workload feel less daunting and helps you make steady progress. It’s as easing as adding “write a to-do list” on your to-do list.
Set Deadlines (and Stick to Them): Create your own deadlines for each task and hold yourself accountable. Set realistic timelines and treat them as non-negotiable commitments. Getting an accountability partner is even better- you can both work to keep each other on task and on time.
Prioritize Like a Boss: Not all tasks are created equal. I know you want to color code all of your file folders and create an Instagram-prefect work space, but you need to organize your monthly invoices and balance your books (ahem, not to self). Identify your most important and time-sensitive tasks, and tackle those first. Pro tip: the infamous Eisenhower Box can be a game-changer for prioritization.
Take Breaks (Yes, Really): Working non-stop is a one-way ticket to Burnoutville. Schedule regular breaks to recharge your batteries and come back to your tasks with a fresh perspective.
Reward Yourself: Positive reinforcement works wonders! Treat yourself to a little reward whenever you reach a milestone or complete a task. It could be as simple as a coffee break or indulging in your favorite snack, or buying yourself a new piece of jewelry!
Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day. By staying proactive, breaking tasks into manageable chunks, and sticking to your schedule, you'll find yourself cruising through your workload with ease. So, let's finally ditch the procrastination and embrace productivity!