What I Learned About Procrastination


October 30th, 2012

 


Last month, I shared my frustration with my ongoing procrastination in getting started on my monthly newsletter.  As a result, I said that I would work on the next newsletter for 30 minutes each day and promised to report back to you on how I did.  In keeping my promise,  I wrote the following article; 

Being held accountable REALLY DOES work. I definitely made more of an effort to spend time on the planning and preparation of this month’s Newsletter, due to my need to keep my promise of reporting back to you.  However, I did not spend 30 minutes each day, as originally planned and I made a point of noticing why and how that happened. Here’s what I discovered. I noticed that once I got started it was not a good idea to stop after only 30 minutes due to my ongoing difficulty   transitioning both in and out, while requiring sustained mental effort, planning and forethought.  As many of us know, not exactly an “ADD- user- friendly- activity. ”  However, what I did realize was that there were several tasks that I could easily transition in and out of in 30 minutes on a daily basis that were more appropriate for scheduling in this way.  These tasks were far more automatic and required a lot less organization and thought, such as sorting through the mail on automatic pilot.  

So, in conclusion, here’s what I learned about  procrastination and how this might be helpful to some of you;   

  • I discovered that,  for me, tasks requiring a lot of planning, organization and forethought are best scheduled for longer than a 30 minute window of time.  It felt like I needed about a 2 hour block of time at least twice per month.   I would suggest noticing what kind of tasks are well suited for short bursts of energy and time frames for you, while being aware of those tasks that require longer blocks of time for sustained mental effort.  Pay attention to the time of day that you have the most energy for those tasks that require sustained mental focus and make sure to block those times off your calendar so that it becomes a regular part of your weekly or monthly schedule.
  • Consciously notice the kinds of obstacles that get in your way.  Perhaps it’s background noise, or the phone ringing, (I disconnect my phones when working ) or interruptions by children, family, pets, or friends.  Try to have a “do not disturb zone” set up so that when you go to this place, no one interrupts you and you can turn off any distracting sounds. It may mean leaving your home to go to a library, park, or quiet area.  Or you may be one of those individuals that do better with white noise or the background sound of a TV going.  So pay close attention to what works for you. 
  • Since the accountability piece really did keep me conscious of what I needed to do, as well as what was and wasn’t working for me, I would highly recommend incorporating a  ”reporting system” into your life.  Although having a coach is an ideal way to do this, it can be a friend or business partner that helps keep you on track.  
  • Write your goal on paper and review the outcome with your coach or “accountability person” on a regular basis so that you can tweak your action steps, if necessary.   

I hope my observations about my obstacles around procrastination were helpful to you in developing your own action plan around these kinds of tasks. Perhaps you have some additional ideas that have helped you to overcome your issues with procrastination that you might want to share.  If so, please let me know, as I would love to hear from you.  

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  • Nicole

    Great article. Some times when I really need a great deal of mental effort I turn off my phone and put on headphones (often times with no music).

    • http://leslie@addadults.net Leslie

      Thanks, Nicole. I hope you found it helpful.

    • lesrouder

      Thanks, Nicole. It sounds like you have a system that works for you. You might try a good pair of ear plugs instead of the headphones without music and see if that works, as well.

  • Susan

    I really enjoyed (related to :) and got a lot out of the articles on procrastination – thanks Leslie! I definitely procrastinate on the things I least feel like doing or that seem difficult or boring. I have started using the reward system and it seems to help me get started on those bigger tasks. I’ll start the task with a pre-determined “reward” or break that will take place after working a set amount of time, say every 30 or 45 minutes. Although the it can be hard to maintain focus when transitioning in and out, it does seem to help me overall!

    • lesrouder

      Hey Susan! I think that knowing what time frame works best for you in these kinds of tasks is key to being successful. (as well as the best time of day for scheduling these kinds of activities) I love that you give yourself a “reward” or break after your pre-determined work periods. Thanks for sharing!!