We all lack motivation on occasion, particularly when we dislike or feel overwhelmed by a task at hand. But there are procrastinators who habitually immerse themselves in busy work to avoid tasks that must be done. Procrastination basically means avoiding doing tasks which need to be done, sometimes doing them at the last minute or sometimes never doing them at all. The psychological price we pay ranges from minor self-guilt and irritation to intense anxiety and self-disgust. Habitual procrastination, however, keeps some people from working to their potential. Sometimes you can identify why you lack motivation at work, whether it’s the project or situation that you dislike. However, if a specific cause cannot be pinpointed then most likely psychological issues are involved.
There are 3 key reasons as to why individuals lack motivation and procrastinate:
1. Fear of failure – this is the most prevalent reason. These individuals usually avoid important projects and busy themselves with routine and familiar tasks; have trouble concentrating and voice all kinds of excuses; overestimate the difficulties involved or underestimate their own abilities to resolve them.
2. Perfectionism – tasks are put off because these individuals fear failure. In contrast to failure-fearers, they set exceedingly high standards and overambitious goals, and attempt to do everything perfectly, regardless of its importance. Perfectionists cannot set priorities or determine which tasks require minimum or maximum effort.
3. Fear of success – success-fearers welcome challenging assignments but as soon as they have made any significant progress, they feel compelled to check themselves and cast about for ways of postponing additional work.
How can we beat procrastination at work? The following are some useful methods and techniques you can follow, and by just applying a few of these will assist in releasing your energies for action.
1. Delay gratification: M. Scott Peck’s book ‘The Road Less Traveled’ (one of the books I have recommended you read in my previous blog under the Motivational Tips category) will provide you with invaluable insight into the why, how and what to do with this technique.
2. Identify action steps: Successful execution of a project or task begins with a series of specific actions: undertaking research, collecting information, writing letters or memos, calling or seeing people, assigning responsibilities, holding meetings, reading reports, and so forth. First step is to list as many specific tasks as you can. Second, organise the tasks and establish an action sequence. Third, set deadlines for tasks and draw up a master list which is a continuous, single listing of everything that must be done. The tasks are then transferred each day to your daily list of things to do. Importantly, breaking the project into feasible units and taking it in small doses lessens the drudgery.
3. Build mini completions: Starting a project or task that cannot be completed for weeks or months can be exceedingly difficult. Motivate yourself to make a beginning and provide the necessary gratification by establishing interim completion points. Think of several easy instant tasks that can be done in a few minutes and the build on that. After several mini-task sessions, you will know about how much time the project will take. This helps you schedule enough blocks of time to complete it before the deadline and then concentrate on the larger tasks.
4. Divide large tasks: This means choosing tasks that will fill the time available. For example, if you have a three-hour time slot, tackle one big task rather than several smaller jobs.
5. Delegate: When faced with a routine or unpleasant task, look at assigning the project or parts of it to another team member or subordinate. Alternatively, you may look out outsourcing the task and hiring someone outside of the organisation to complete it.
6. Reward yourself: It is very important that you provide your own positive reinforcement. Give yourself a treat when you have completed the job, something you find enjoyable or makes you feel good. Importantly, this reward does not have to be big or even cost money.
In summary, first, admit you have some fears and anxieties (psychological research has shown that a mild degree of anxiety is normal and can actually lead to better performance). Second, act on it and face your fears with concentration and time management. Third, identify your strong points and set goals and priorities which will assist in developing a ‘can do’ attitude. Finally, take the initiative to change your work environment if it causes distractions. Remember, a few changes in your attitude and work habits will make a dramatic difference in the way you perform your work.
Beat procrastination and get motivated!