Many people procrastinate on some level, whether it’s doing laundry, running an errand, or going to the gym. In the office, however, procrastination has a different set of consequences, and time wasted in completing a task costs not only your productivity but also company money. Understanding the reasons why people procrastinate is key to cutting down or weeding out this vice. Luckily, there are a number project management tools available that help fight the symptoms of stalling, and allow you to overcome procrastination.
Why People Procrastinate
There’s an endless list of excuses as to why people put off items on their to-do lists. According to Mindtools, procrastination happens when there is a lag in time between when you intend to do something and when it actually gets done. Fine-tuning broad or vague goals and breaking them down into smaller steps is an essential element in hacking procrastination. Making your workload more manageable with sub-tasks that take little effort or time helps make the overall goal less daunting. If the assignment is to plan a company retreat, for instance, all the related tasks can seem overwhelming. While in total, you might take 10 hours to plan everything, breaking the project down into a set number of tasks that each take 10 to 15 minutes to complete makes it seem less intimidating.
Amy Miron wrote a Forbes article that highlights a recent study by the Journal of Consumer Research, which shows we have a “natural inclination to categorize time . . . in terms of ‘present’ and ‘future.’” When a deadline is more urgent and listed under “present,” it’s addressed right away, whereas a deadline filed under “future” is easily put off and ignored. The study also emphasized the human tendency to postpone any project we think we can delay until later. Changing the way you think about time and creating a sense of urgency can help you complete tasks ahead of schedule, so you don’t find yourself actually facing a hard deadline.
Recognizing the four pillars of procrastination — low task value, personality, expectations, and goal failure — will allow you to customize your “plan of attack” to combat procrastination. Assigning a low task value entails giving little priority to a given assignment; if you think it’s not important, it’s easy to postpone. Personality is harder to control, as you can’t change how you’re wired. However, you can change your surroundings to be more conducive to productivity. Expectations often drive a person’s ability to get a task done on time. If you believe an assignment is difficult, it’s simple to psyche yourself out and delay starting. Fear of failure is always a roadblock that perpetuates procrastination. Having confidence in your skills is important for completing any goal.
Project Management Tools Can Help
Tackling procrastination can be difficult to do in itself, but luckily, there are many project management tools that have built-in features to help increase productivity. Prioritization and management of your tasks can go a long way towards achieving your goals, and solutions such as Gantt allow users to set up their own to-do lists, create schedules, and establish milestones. Each task can be color-coded and assigned a priority level, and labeled with its cost. Organizing tasks in a work-breakdown format and highlighting inter-dependent tasks, can help motivate you to get the job done. Being able to set time-based goals and manage your workload in an organized way can help you hit your milestones without the stress of looming deadlines and uncertainty about where things stand.
Keeping yourself and your teammates accountable for their work also helps overcome postponing tasks, and tools such as LeanKit enable users to create and visualize workflows for themselves and their team. Keeping track of your progress and the time it takes to complete a task can help you use your time more efficiently. Collaboration between members of your department or your company can also decrease the time lag in between projects.
Stray thoughts and distractions are often the biggest reason why tasks are delayed. Lisa Evans points out in a recent Fast Company article, “Employees with the highest levels of productivity worked for 52 minutes with intense purpose,” and then took a 17-minute break to recharge. Solutions like Asana also offer a resource like Focus Mode in order to eliminate distractions and enhance an employee’s work environment.
So whether you’re writing an article, planning a campaign, or producing a video, understanding the reasons behind why people procrastinate and utilizing project management tools to combat the symptoms can not only help you check more things off your to-do list, but also save you time and money in the long run.
Jacel Egan is a media relations coordinator at TechnologyAdvice , a Nashville, Tenn.-based company that researches and analyzes a variety of business technology options. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.
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