I am a master procrastinator. I like to think it’s because I’m super chilled, mañana mañana, but in reality it’s often just avoidance. Sometimes it bothers me, sometimes it doesn’t; sometimes it matters, sometimes it doesn’t. But there are occasions when it has a tangible impact on my work, when that thing I’ve been keeping in my peripheral vision or on the bottom of my to-do list for too long starts impacting other tasks or, worse, wakes me up at night.
You will know from previous blogs that I have taken the opportunity during lockdown and working from home to get my productivity in order, and this is working pretty well, although at times inconsistent. Overcoming procrastination is my current challenge.
I didn’t know it was going to be, but it was catalysed by joining a webinar recently with those Productivity Ninjas I have spoken of before. Webinars generally can be a bit hit and miss I find, but the nugget in this one has been amazing. I suspect I’ve heard it before but for some reason it landed this time, I was ready to hear it.
The nugget came in the form of an acronym: DUST. Dust is a way of categorising the thing you are procrastinating about. Ask yourself if the ‘thing‘ is: Difficult; Undefined; Scary; or Tedious.
Identifying the reason for your procrastination is the first step towards overcoming it. Once you know that, here are some ideas for strategies:
D: Difficult. Perhaps you can ask for help? Ask your manager, ask a colleague. Get some training? Or do some research to see how others have approached it? Let’s be honest – there is a “how can I” for everything on Google and YouTube these days. Take a first step and see how you get on.
U: Undefined. You’ve been sitting on it because you aren’t really quite sure what you are supposed to be doing with it, or don’t have a deadline or a clear expectation. So for this, you need to get some clarity – ask whoever can give you that (your manager?), or decide it for yourself – create a step by step plan, break it down, set some milestones or deadlines.
S: Scary. This is tough, taking that step into the unknown. You are putting it off because you aren’t really sure how it will go, it feels outside of your comfort zone. So two options here: One might be a reframing job – change the ‘scary‘ to ‘exciting‘ or ‘curious‘, allow yourself to think of it as a first try. The other option, as the ninjas propose, is to “create a bigger fear”! Tell yourself – if you don’t do this, then something even worse will happen, and see if that motivates you forward. I did this recently – I was struggling to get on with something so, by telling a wider group of people what I was going to do, it created a bigger fear – the embarrassment of going back to them and saying I just didn’t do it. It worked.
T: Tedious. Those repetitive, uninspiring jobs. The chores. The ones from which you derive little joy. For this you need to find a reward. Either in the moment (I will listen to my favourite podcast while I do this ironing) or afterwards (if I finish this 30 minutes of data entry I will have that cake). Always the cake.
I have the acronym on a post-it note stuck in my line of sight and it has genuinely helped me crack on with a variety of things this week.
If you want to learn more, then the webinar was recorded and can be viewed below.
We hope to be running some Ninja courses in-house this year – keep an eye out for them, they are worth the investment of your time.
Juliet Flynn, Organisational and People Development Consultant