As much as we desire to be productive 24/7 and disciplined with how we manage our time, the reality is that we often can’t do it. And it is only human. The emails pile up or a deadline is uncomfortably close. Add to that the things we want to do for ourselves – gym, nap, socialize, and what not. We are all on the same boat, experiencing stress, frustration, and energy drain.
Why do we let this happen?
Possibility 1: We feel we will not succeed at the task and mess it up.
Most of our tasks are attached to a gain or positive outcome. A promotion, appreciation, achievement of a dream goal like buying a house, etc. We believe that the action/ task will improve our situation either in the immediate or near future. Psychologists call this a promotion focus – you are motivated and optimistic for the end result. But, if there is anxiety about failure, then the motivation is pointless, right? It just keeps us locked in inaction.
Address this fear of failure by switching from ‘promotion focus’ to ‘prevention focus’. This means changing your perspective about completing the task by viewing it as something that helps you keep steady what you already have. Completion prevents loss. For example, meeting deadlines maintains your reputation for being professional and disciplined. The more worried you are about losing something, the quicker the action you will take! That’s simple human psychology.
Possibility 2: We feel the task is boring or too challenging.
Studies show that too often we overestimate our ability to plan, our self-control, and our will power. This is why we procrastinate, thinking we can tackle even the trickiest of things in the nick of time. Or that we will magically find inspiration. You may also find yourself thinking that you don’t feel like doing something. But have you thought about what is really stopping you? Nothing but yourself.
To counter this possibility, we suggest a dose of reality. Let’s accept that our willpower, to start something on time and see it through as we would have ideally liked to, is not as strong as we think. Knowing this, what would you do? Experts recommend a form of planning called ‘if, then’ – planning each detail to the ‘t’ about what you are going to do, when, and where. “If it is 4 PM, I will stop my work and look at my to-do list for the day to see what priorities I have missed.” Research shows this method amps up productivity by 200%.
We know you relate to these possibilities of why we don’t do our tasks. What would you like to try to shift that pattern?