Do you find yourself again and again with a mountain of things to do? Do you have an interminable list of tasks which, at first, you feel motivated to take care of? This is how many work days start in Spain. This way to organize working life, but suddenly someone asks you something, you start to busy yourself with that, and when you want to return to what you were doing you are lost. Procrastination happens pretty often, but why? It is much easier to postpone tasks than it is to take care of them in the moment, and it isn’t hard to make excuses.

The majority of people begin the the day concentrated, finishing up pending tasks, etc. This willpower exists, but we still fall into a state of procrastination: without wanting to—or sometimes wanting to—we postpone tasks that we should do immediately. Changing the order of tasks can be a good idea and it has real advantages, since sometimes doing some things can help other things resolve themselves. The problem arises when we start to postpone things in a systematic manner. In Spain this behavior is also linked to long lunches and working hours that make people tired. 

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Scientists differentiate between:

  • Born procrastinators: They only act under pressure, and what motivates them to finish a task is the pressure of having to hand something in immediately. The believe that in this way, they are more productive.
  • Those who simply postpone tasks that they should complete. They suffer because they fear failure and they avoid finishing tasks. They believe that the failure of a project depends on them. They are the masters of excuses.

The real problem of those who leave everything for later. like it is the nature of the Hispanic culture, is that they have difficulties defining priorities and they generally feel inferior. If the tasks are fairly long, they leave them for later and do other things first such as organizing and reading emails which are faster and create a feeling of satisfaction upon finishing them which feels better than starting complicated things.

Have you recognized some of your own behaviors in the description above? If not, you will certainly find some similarities in the typologies that we are going to describe next. It is not necessarily a bad thing, but rather can have positive effects also. For each typology, we give advice that can help to improve this tendency.

The neat-freak

Typical sentence: “First I have to do the dishes, then organize the papers and the desk, and afterwards I will start.”

Why?

Keeping in mind that when you face a task you feel overwhelmed, you feel the need to organize everything. You don’t know where to start.

What to do

Reduce complex tasks into smaller, simpler ones. It is a question of mentality. If we do something difficult without abandoning it at the first opportunity, it will be less boring.

The alarmist

Typical sentence: “There is still time.”

Why?

The alarmist has poor time management. They never distribute their tasks evenly. They often underestimate the quantity of work that they have left.

What to do

Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Normally you think “I have to…”, “I should…”, “Do it now because if you don’t…”. This doesn’t work—we recommend that you change your mechanism: put yourself in the mindset of making real decisions. Have priorities. Define what is actually important and urgent and what you can do later.

The list-maker

Typical sentence: “I’m going to make a list really quickly”.

Why?

Simply put, you like to. Adding things to your list gives you a feeling of fulfillment and it makes you feel productive.

What to do

Start by doing what you like the least. Grab the bull by the horns. Generally you postpone the task that least pleases you when you really should be doing the opposite. The rest of the day you will feel clearer having done the most boring thing in the first place.

The multitasker.

Why?

You get bored quickly of the tasks that you do and you can’t concentrate on them very well. You get stuck on one point and quickly decide to change tasks.

What to do

Forget about multiple tasks. A study confirmed that people stop being productive when they try to do several things at the same time. Trying to do many tasks at once creates stress. We suggest that you do them one at a time.

The internet junky

Typical sentence: “I wonder what’s happening on Facebook?”

Why?

The constant search for things on the internet causes you to lose concentration easily, whether it be an email or a funny video on YouTube.

What to do

Limit your time on social media. Be conscious of all the time that you invest in it. This will help you realize that you are easily losing 2-3 hours to social media every day.

Advice against procrastination

Procrastination can become a real problem if it turns into something chronic. At first, it is not very serious, but we should prevent it from becoming something more. Experts give us advice to prevent it.

Start immediately: The 72-hour rule says that when someone starts a task, they should have something tangible within a period of a maximum of 72 hours. If this is not the case, the opportunity to finish it in a satisfactory manner reduces to 1%.

Question yourself: Why are you always postponing certain tasks? Procrastination is a habit that can change. You need only to realize exactly what is happening and break the habit. It also helps to note our behavioral habits. What do I urgently have to do? Why? What will make my stress go away? How could I do it in another way?

Plan with time: Procrastination is a custom. In the afternoons, write down what you have to do the next day (not what you want to do, but rather what you should do) and cling to this.

Be concrete: The more concrete and precise your plans, the more difficult it will be to deviate from them.

Be careful with your thoughts: Thoughts have a lot of power. We constantly reflect on our behavior, analyze ourselves, and critique ourselves. This internal dialogue absorbs us 95% percent of the time. Therefore, we should be able to control our thoughts and motivate ourselves, believing that we can do it.

Demand less from yourself: Normally one thinks “I have to…” or “Do it now or else…”, and this doesn’t work. We recommend that you change this mechanism and and get in the mindset to make a decision.

Have the consequences clear: Be conscious of the consequences if you do not finish what you need to do or if you do it poorly and in an untimely manner. What would your boss and your coworkers think? This can make you lose good opportunities.

Establish priorities: Define what is really important and urgent and what you can do later.

Reduce complex task into smaller, simpler ones: It is a question of mentality, if we do something difficult without abandoning it at the first opportunity, it will be less tedious. Little by little, the big task will get done.

Maintain your organization: You can use different techniques for this, but maintain the order that you decide to follow in a way that you can complete the tasks you need to get done and have moments of rest.

By Hillman Hollister