P is for Procrastination.
Don't you just hate it when life imitates art? Or is it life imitating work? Either way, I was supposed to write this entry two days ago but have been putting it off. First it was because we had visitors and so I didn't get the undisturbed quiet time I need to write something; then I reasoned it was that I hadn't quite worked out how I was going to approach writing it; and finally I was busy doing other work which was just as important (although not quite as urgent).
There is some truth in all of these reasons, but the real reason that this entry wasn't posted on time is procrastination.
Of course, the irony wasn't lost on me that I was procrastinating about writing an article about how to beat procrastination. Maybe that's part of the problem - procrastinating is my biggest productivity vice. By far. So who am I to be telling you how to beat procrastination? I suppose if nothing else, I can sympathise with you.
Spotting When It Strikes
The most obvious way to spot that you're procrastinating is when one of the most important tasks sits on your to-do list for hours or days without you making any progress towards completing it.
It doesn't always feel like you're procrastinating, but if that task is really important then surely you should be getting on with it rather than anything else. Frequently our procrastination techniques have become so subtle and ingrained that we don't even notice we're doing it.
Are you really being constantly interrupted, or are you checking your email to pretend that you're doing some work?
Do you need that third cup of tea, or are you avoiding making that phone call?
In rare cases, procrastinating can help you to get more done. I mean, who hasn't ended up with a clean and tidy room when they were supposed to be revising for an exam? But that's not the most effective method for getting things done.
Dealing With The Procrastination
As I've proved with the late arrival of this post, there isn't a foolproof way to solve procrastination. However, with awareness of the problem you can work at improving how you deal with it when it strikes.
The key to beating procrastination is to work out why you are avoiding the task. Then see if there's a way to avoid the problem rather than avoiding the work...
If the task seems too huge a problem to attack then try breaking it into more manageable chunks. Or if you're scared that you might fail then you should take a deep breath and just do it. And if you're not relishing the actual work itself then remind yourself that you're the one who put the task on your list, and the quickest way for it to be finished is if you get started and focus on it.
See... it wasn't that hard to write now, was it?