Raise your hand if you’re constantly stuck at procrastination station. Why is it that whenever you have an important task, you just can’t seem to get it done?
Before you sign up for Procrastinators Anonymous—when you get around to it, that is—don’t be so down on your dawdling. It may not be as bad as you think.
Journalist Andrew Santella has written the book on procrastination—literally—called Soon: An Overdue History of Procrastination, from Leonardo and Darwin to You and Me. Among the lengthy list of lollygaggers are the aforementioned Leonardo da Vinci and Charles Darwin and Frank Lloyd Wright—all geniuses with massive contributions to society.
Santella’s book dispels the myth that procrastinators are lazy. “Most procrastinators are busy and active people, and since they can’t be busy and active on the right thing, they do the wrong thing instead,” he writes. In the cases of da Vinci, Darwin, and Wright, the pressure of a looming deadline lit a fire of creativity under them, resulting in some of their most important work.
Just putting something off isn’t bad, Santella says. “A more precise definition of procrastination is putting it off knowing that doing so will bite you later.”
So what can you do if procrastination is hurting your work? What can chronic procrastinators do to curb their postponing habits?
5 Ways to Get Your Caboose in Gear
1. Create artificial deadlines. Pretending you have no time to complete a task tricks your mind and gives you the motivation to complete it.
2. Make a to-do list that ranks tasks from the most urgent to least important.
3. Break big, complex tasks down into several concrete steps to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed
4. Say it out loud. Telling someone what you plan to accomplish will increase your chance of actually doing it.
5. As Nike famously says, just do it! People often procrastinate because they’re perfectionists afraid of failure. Tell yourself that it’ll be a success, and the task will seem less intimidating.
Sources: canadianbusiness.com, inc.com, hbr.org