Today or not today? That is the question.
Have you ever found yourself starting the day with a plan to do a specific task and when the end of the day comes, you realise you didn’t get it done and can’t figure out why? Take this article for example. I was going to start writing it first thing in the morning, but the following paragraph outlines the reality of what happened.
First I need some breakfast... Then my hands are dirty so I had better wash them... And the dishes... The dishwasher needs unloading... And loading... The tea towel is dirty so I place a fresh one on the towel rail and put the dirty one in the washing machine... Might as well put some washing in whilst I’m here, then they can be washing while I work on my article... Oh yes... My article. I forgot... best get back to it. Does this sound at all familiar?
I could go on about the number of other distractions that took place such as Facebook, phone calls and the need for coffee, but if you are a procrastinator like me, you already get the picture. If you are a procrastinator, then let me just reassure you that you are not alone and you are perfectly normal. So why do we do it and what can we do about it?
Why do we procrastinate?
- Confidence and comfort zones.
Some things that we need to do can take us out of our comfort zone. For example, perhaps you need to make some phone calls but you don’t feel comfortable talking on the phone. Maybe you need to complete an online form but are not very confident at using the computer.
- Feeling overwhelmed.
Sometimes there are so many things on your ’to do’ list, that the thought of getting started just feels too overwhelming. It may seem like there is a huge mountain in front of you and the first step feels almost impossible.
Perhaps it is just a habit you have developed over the years and so it is normal for you to leave things until the last minute. Habits that have taken years to develop may seem difficult to break. But it is not impossible.
If you are suffering from depression, this can affect both your ability to concentrate and the motivation to get things done. A lack of sleep often accompanies depression. Tiredness and lethargy exacerbate procrastination.
What can we do about procrastination?
Writing a list of tasks can be a helpful way to prioritise, but if the list is too long then it can become overwhelming. A short list highlighting the most important tasks can be a good place to start.
- Setting goals.
Once you have prioritised what needs to be done, you could look at setting some goals. These need to be realistic and achievable. Perhaps the goal can be to pick the job you least want to do and get it done today. If it’s a big job that is not going to get done in a day, then you may wish to set small goals to keep you motivated along the way until it’s done. Focus on how good it will feel to finally have the task completed.
- Limiting interruptions.
Facebook, emails and cups of coffee (that’s me) are all distractions, so try to keep them to a minimum. Maybe you could schedule some time in your diary to get a few tasks done to minimise distractions.
- Getting support.
We all need a little support sometimes. It may be that talking to a friend or family member is all the support you need, especially if it’s a little motivation you are looking for. Perhaps you feel the need for some professional help such as counselling. Whatever type of support you require, talking things over in a supportive environment can help you to gain mental clarity enabling you to become more focused and better able to not only set goals but achieve them too.
And finally, keep focused on how great it will feel to have accomplished that task you have been avoiding and the pleasure you will get from crossing it off your list. Just don’t add too many more to the list!
Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.
About Sian Maman
Sian is a counsellor and psychotherapist working within her own private practice and also within a counselling agency in Nottinghamshire. Her specialties include anxiety, panic attacks, depression and loss.
She has a BSc (hons) in counselling and psychotherapy and a BSc (hons) in health care studies.