By: Lynda McNutt Foster
As we begin sliding into home base on 2016 there are probably some things you thought you’d get done in January that you haven’t marked off your list yet. Procrastinating the “important” for the ever mounting “urgent” tasks will lead to a reactive rather than a proactive mindset and less than desirable long-term results.
About 20% of people label themselves as chronic procrastinators. Experts define procrastination as the voluntary delay of some important task that we intend to do, despite knowing that we’ll suffer as a result. Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University puts it this way, “It really has nothing to do with time-management. As I tell people, to tell the chronic procrastinator to just do it would be like saying to a clinically depressed person, cheer up.”
What things have you been procrastinating this year? Has it not been important enough to make it your top priority yet? What will happen if you don’t complete what you’ve been procrastinating? Are you waiting for it to become urgent for it to become important? If so, watch this short video to get some motivation.
Tim Urban is a popular blogger who is helping people slay procrastination. He’s humorous in this 14:03 TED Talk video and has a twist on the time quadrant that most of us are familiar with. (see diagram) His rationale involves a rational decision-making person, an instant gratification monkey and the panic monster. The panic monster kicks in when there’s a time deadline for what we need to get done. He spends a great deal of time making us laugh about the problem and offers a simplified solution to solve the actual problem.
If you want to slay procrastination, according to research from UCLA and published in the article How to Beat Procrastination HBR, here is a 2-step method:
- Make the benefits of taking action much bigger
- Visualize completion
- Publically commit before you start
- Identify and feel the pain of not getting it done
- Make the costs of action feel much smaller
- Create the first step
- Treat yourself quickly
- Remove what is blocking you
The findings around how to slay procrastination is connected to the work done by Chip and Dan Heath about how to change things when change is hard in their book Switch . Their research about change is directly tied to the methodology of stopping procrastination. They created the model of the rider, elephant and path which is similar to Urban’s description of the rational decision maker, the instant gratification monkey, and the panic monster. The monkey and the monster is the elephant in the Heath model as they are the emotional side of ourselves that drive us to get motivated to complete what we think is important or procrastinate what we think we can because it’s not urgent to get it done now. The other research connects to the path the Heath brothers talk about, in their model, in the fact that we need to break change into small pieces and quickly treat ourselves after completing each one. You can get their free guide to 4 Researched Packed Tips for Sticking to Your New Year’s Resolutions.
Slay procrastination with your team this week with this exercise:
- Have each team member identify one important item that they have been procrastinating, but that needs to get done before the end of the year and what the benefits of the outcome will be for them to complete it.
- Have each member declare, to the team, that they will complete the item.
- Ask them to identify the first, small step towards completing it.
- Choose an accountability partner for each team member.
- Choose a reward, for each person, for completing that first step.
Have you been procrastinating upgrading your leadership skills? Slay it by requesting more information about our upcoming Cortex Leading a Winning Team leadership course. Here’s what some recent graduates are saying about their experience in our programs.