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Until I started in the world of online business, I had never heard the term procrastination before.  But like anyone, I had seen the causes of procrastination and the effects of it in action without knowing the name.  Now I know not only the technical name but how big a problem it can be when you work from home.  So let’s all understand procrastination and how we can overcome it.

What is procrastination?

Procrastination is often defined as doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable one.  Piers Steel, in his book The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done says

“Procrastination is to voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay.”

The fact is, we only have limited self-control and it is a resource that can become exhausted, just like any muscle in the body.  As we get near that point of running out of self-control, we tend to go for tasks that are fun and avoid the ones that are boring, or we don’t enjoy – and that’s procrastination.  The technical term is that it is an ‘avoidance strategy’ where we do something pleasurable to avoid doing something painful (or boring, irritating or anything like that).

causes of procrastination - using time well

What are the common causes of procrastination?

In order to better deal with our common urge to do fun things and ignore the boring ones, it is worth understanding the common causes of procrastination.  One way of assessing your own tendencies is to look at the types of procrastination.  Here are five examples:

The perfectionist

Probably the most common type of procrastinator, this is the person who worries about making a mistake or being embarrassed by doing something wrong.  This means they put too much work into getting something perfect and not releasing it until this aim is met (which often means never at all).  Or they may put it off for the perfect time then have to rush through the project to get it done for a deadline.

The imposter

Imposter syndrome is very real – I’ve felt it myself and it wasn’t until I started working with an amazing coach did I realise how much it had held me back since I started my business.  And it is a type of procrastination – the feeling that you aren’t good enough or don’t know enough to do something, teach a topic or complete a service.

The rationalist

Also known as the dread-filled procrastinator, this is where you put stuff off because you hate doing it.  It might be mind-numbing and boring, difficult or you may be telling yourself you are really no good at it.  Then you rationalise a reason not to do it.

The overwhelmed

You know that massive to do list of 30 items you made on New Year’s Day?  Well, the overwhelm of all of those seemingly crucial jobs can lead you into doing none of them.  The overwhelmed procrastinator ends up being unable to decide what job to do first – and ends up doing none of them.

The lucky

According to experts, this is the group of people who have learned to procrastinate but not associating it with fear.  They intentionally put themselves under pressure because they are convinced this is how they work the best.  They probably have got real results doing this, but the problem is that their luck could run out.  And this is would lead to nothing getting done, jobs being poor quality or even bigger problems.

How to overcome them when working at home

Once you understand the causes of procrastination and identify which one affects you, then you are ready to look at overcoming procrastination and getting more done.  This can be particularly important when you are working at home, being your own boss because if you don’t get things done, they don’t get done.

1.      Create a home office

When you first start working from home, it is great fun to work in all kinds of places like sitting on your bed or the front room couch.  But this doesn’t often lead to the most productive times because there are too many distractions.  Creating a dedicated work space, a home office, is key to avoiding the effects of procrastination.  You can even set up features like some snacks and drinks, so you can stay there for a good period of time.

2.      Use productivity apps

There are lots of different apps and software that can help keep you on track.  Things like Toggl can let you check how long you have been working while others can shut down things like Facebook during certain times so that you don’t get distracted by the latest updates or cute cat videos.

3.      Develop a system for jobs

It is important to have a system for the jobs you need to do.  For me, for example, I use Asana for all jobs that have dates.  Each of my business areas has a workspace.  I start with client work then move onto jobs for my blogs.  Once the Asana workspaces are finished, I look at a general to do list on Trello where I keep all non-date related jobs.  That way I always know what is next and don’t get caught up with any of the reasons for procrastination.

4.      Give yourself a treat or a reward

It is also good to give yourself a treat or reward for reaching your daily goals.  It might be half an hour on a computer game, fifteen minutes playing Candy Crush or an hour sitting watching something on Netflix.  Pick something that you enjoy and set this as a reward for accomplishing your aims – but don’t do it if you fall into procrastination and don’t get things done.

Conquering procrastination

There’s no set way to handle the causes of procrastination or to overcome its effects.  It is about looking at yourself, how you approach the tasks and why you put them off.  By understanding why you procrastinate, you can then better combat the problem and get things done.  And feel happier with your daily accomplishments!

Do you find yourself procrastinating?  What’s your trigger?

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