“I keep jumping from one task to the next and just can’t finish anything.” Sound familiar?
We all put things off (procrastinate) sometimes and it’s not always a problem. However, procrastination can creep up on you. You defer one thing (“Oh, I’m not sure how to do that so I’ll do it later”). Then, it happens again and again. Before you know it, you feel like a ‘rabbit in the headlights' - frozen into inactivity with tasks pilling up all around you.
If you are worried that procrastination is having a negative impact on your efficiency and productivity along with your morale, motivation and stress levels, it’s important to do something about it before it gets out of control. Also, it's crucial to take some positive steps now rather than say you’ll do it later!
Be honest with yourself
The main thing is to recognise that you’re procrastinating and it’s becoming a problem. Classic signs include:
- Vacillating over and re-jigging ‘to do’ lists and priorities
- Working half-heartedly on bits of work
- Inability to concentrate on pieces of work and see them through to the end
- Having to cram everything in at the last minute because you’ve delayed starting
- Jumping from task to task without completing important ones
- Avoiding certain types of work.
Once you’ve recognised that you’re getting into bad habits, you now need to uncover the reasons as to why you are procrastinating and work out what you can do to get yourself into motion again (you might want to ask a confidant to help you to do this). For example:
Are you bored?
If you rely on a mix of interesting core work and other less interesting 'bread and butter’ work as many freelances do, then, yes, not all work will be great fun. But you need to get on with it.
Try building in small chunks of the boring stuff around the work you enjoy. Also, reward yourself when you finish something that you don’t like doing – remind yourself of all the positive reasons of why you are doing it.
If you decide that you are bored with a high percentage of your work, it might be time to seriously think about where your career is heading and what you could do that would be more interesting.
Do you lack the ability to prioritise?
Learning to prioritise is important. Do you have ongoing lists and deadlines? If a deadline is too 'fluid’/distant, try to do some work on it on a regular basis rather than leave it to the last minute. Here are some tips to help you prioritise and get organised:
- If everything seems overwhelming, break the tasks down into smaller ‘bite size’ chunks
- Feel the sense of achievement as you tick off each task
- Pinpoint how you work best. For example, if you know that you are more creative in the morning leave the admin side of your work (invoicing, etc) until later in the day. One of the upsides of being freelance is that we can, to some extent, choose how we work. Take a long look at yourself and how you work and try and carve out the best way to do it for you that leaves you feeling as happy and balanced about work as possible
- Plan in ‘playtime’ to help with your psychological and emotional well-being. By allowing yourself this kind of reward, you may be able to be more focused and less distracted in your work time.
Do you lack confidence?
If so, think of ways to improve that. For example, list down all your achievements to help you remember how talented you are.
Also, assess your weaknesses. Are there new skills you need to learn that will make you more confident? Do you have a colleague who is good at this type of work who you could talk to or learn from?
Are you using avoidance techniques?
'Displacement’ activity is used to avoid doing what we need to but don’t like/want to do - especially if it’s because we have a negative emotion or perception related to that work. Discipline and motivation are vital. Remind yourself of what you’ll gain by completing each task. Timetable your working day. You might event want to do a time management audit. To help you do this, try the time management exercise in the 'Quick Tips' section of our digital learning centre.
You can do it!
Think again about your best working experiences when you have just got on with the job. Think about why and how to recapture that and take your first small step to stopping the rot and moving forward.