Do you procrastinate? Don’t worry – you’re not alone. Everyone procrastinates sometimes, especially at work when you’re asked to complete tasks and projects that you don’t like. Unfortunately, procrastination usually leads to lower productivity and higher stress.
It’s time to stop procrastinating and start doing! Following are five of the most common procrastination excuses that people use at work and tips to get even the most dreaded items on your To Do list done.
1. “I can’t work on that project until I finish all of this other stuff first.”
Is this really true or are you just making an excuse to avoid that project? Are you sure those other things on your plate can’t wait? If you’re bumping other less important things to the top of your To Do list so you can ignore that dreaded project, then you’re guilty of procrastinating.
Instead, rewrite your To Do list as if you’re assigning all of your tasks and projects to another employee to complete for you. Prioritize the tasks in the order you’d like your colleague to do them. The trick to crush this common procrastination excuse is to commit to completing your To Do list just as you’d want another employee to complete it for you.
2. “I can’t work on that project until I’m in the right frame of mind.”
Unfortunately, there will probably never be a time when you’re in the right frame of mind to work on a project that you don’t want to do.
Instead, think about how you can mentally and physically prepare yourself to work on the project. Do you need to write down a plan before you get started? Do you need to break it down into smaller pieces and tackle them one at a time? Would a quieter environment help you concentrate? Take some time to prepare yourself or you’ll never get in the “right” frame of mind.
3. “I need a lot of time to work on that project and I know I’ll keep getting interrupted.”
If you know you’ll keep getting interrupted, then you need to take steps to reduce your interruptions. For example, turn off your computer and phone so you can’t respond to emails, check Facebook, send text messages, or answer calls. Close the door to your office or move to a quieter desk or conference room to “hide” from the interruptions.
You can also work on the project at home or early in the morning or in the evening when the office is quieter. In fact, many of the most successful business executives and entrepreneurs use this trick. They arrive at the office two or three hours before other employees in order to get some uninterrupted work time in every day.
4. “My boss shouldn’t have given me that project, so I’ll do it whenever I get to it.”
This excuse didn’t work when you were a child and it won’t work now. In fact, it could significantly damage your career. It doesn’t matter if you think you should be working on a project or not. If your boss assigns it to you, you need to complete it. Yes, you might be able to plead your case to have it re-assigned, but if it’s delegated to you, it’s yours. Unfortunately, few people get to pick and choose their projects at work.
Instead of complaining about the project, just do it. If your roadblock to completing the project is inexperience, then ask colleagues for help. Showing initiative to get things done will help your career in the long-run, and maybe one day you’ll be the boss and can pick and choose your own projects then. Of course, the customer is always in charge, so even as the boss, you can’t always pick your own projects—but I digress.
5. “I’m so overwhelmed that I can’t work on anything right now, including that project.”
If you’re overwhelmed, then you need to take steps to remedy the situation. Sometimes, taking a break can help you put things into perspective. Other times, you need to approach your boss, explain your frustrations, and get help. Feeling overwhelmed can be a real reason why you’re not getting things done, but it’s a procrastination excuse if you’re not doing anything to solve the problem.
If you can’t get help (i.e., you’re on your own to solve this problem), then simplify the project by breaking it up into smaller tasks. Assign a deadline for each task. This specific, step-by-step process ensures that you’re not over-complicating things and can make what once seemed overwhelming a lot easier to tackle.
Are you using any of these procrastination excuses? The first step to overcoming procrastination is to recognize that you’re making excuses to not do something. All of that procrastination takes time and energy away from your day.
Think about how much less stressed you’d feel if you started ticking items off of your To Do list quickly. You’ll never know how it feels until you stop procrastinating!
Originally published 8/17/15. Updated 9/5/19.