What Is Procrastination?
Before we begin, it is important to clarify what exactly procrastination is and what is it not. Administrative assistant roles demand strong time management, concentration, and abilities to multi-task. Procrastination is the enemy! Many people confuse procrastination with laziness. This framing is unhelpful can further fuel procrastination. A fear of failure, a reduced sense of competence and lack of interest can impede the completion of seemingly easy tasks. Having an overwhelming to do list, ambiguous deadlines and limited feedback can further fuel procrastination. Procrastination has many causes. Thankfully there are also many solutions.
Strategies to Overcome Procrastination:
- Acknowledge that you are procrastinating
It is easy when prioritising tasks to convince ourselves that tedious tasks are less important. Unintentionally, we may seek out extra tasks to push unpleasant tasks down the list. Ultimately, this leads to stress and panic as tasks are left to the last minute. This further re-enforces our ideology that these tasks are to be dreaded. Acknowledging that we are avoiding a task is the first step in task completion.
- Explore the causes of your procrastination
Take a few minutes to identify your barriers. Are you afraid of failing or not completing the task perfectly? Has the task and its deadline been clearly explained? Does the task feel unimportant or lack value? Did you have a stressful time completing the task previously and has this put you off? Once you have identified the barriers, you can start to implement strategies to overcome them.
- Challenge unhelpful thinking head on
Perfectionism and hyper-critical thinking are common factors in enabling procrastination. Identify and label these thoughts as unhelpful. Reframe what a successful completion of a task means and visualise how you will feel when you have the task completed. Sometimes procrastination can be a sign that you may be struggling with your mental health more generally. If this is the case, seek support and don’t struggle alone.
- Protect your time
Distraction is a key player in procrastination. Turn your phone on silent and advise colleagues of your protected timeslots for specific tasks. With less distraction you will be better able to focus your attention. This ensures the task is not unnecessarily dragged out and improves task satisfaction.
- Work smart
Before you begin, allow time to break down the task and plan a strategy. This ensures smart working and reduces unnecessary time wastage. There is nothing worse than completing a task incorrectly only to have to repeat it all over again.
- Use an accountability buddy
If you struggle to maintain your own accountability, develop an end of day buddy system. At the end of the day take a few moments to share with each other the tasks you planned for and achieved that day. This can support morale and provide a positive bookend to your working day.
- Positive re-enforcement is key!
As human beings, we have an innate need to receive rewards. Break your to-do list into specific time frames and incorporate positive rewards in between slots. Grab a coffee, go for a walk or treat yourself to something you really enjoy. This helps sustain accountability for both task performance and self-care. Some days you will not get everything completed. Be kind to yourself and recognise what you did achieve rather than focusing on what you did not.
- Ask for help!
Sometimes procrastination can be a symptom of something else. Is your workload manageable? Are your tasks and deadlines being communicated effectively? Do you find yourself getting dumped with tasks all at once with little time to get them completed? If this is the case, speak with your manager and team. Explore alternative options for delegation, improved communication and protected time slots.