Faizel Patel – 30/04/2021
Business Director at cultural experts The Human Edge Helene Vermaak says while procrastination effects all of us, it is not unbeatable
Vermaak says as individuals we can influence and change our behaviours so that productivity becomes a joy rather than an ardent task.
When faced with a difficult task that you just can’t seem to get started with or completed it helps to have some strategies in your arsenal to get you moving in the right direction.
Joseph Grenny, New York Times bestselling author and co-founder of VitalSmarts, The Human Edge’s US partner, says that for him thinking of himself in the third person, as someone he needs to carefully and deliberately influence has been key to being productive.
Here are his six key tips to overcoming procrastination.
- Make Appointments with Yourself
Behavioural economists have shown that making good choices is easy if you don’t have to act on them now. The phenomenon is referred to as hyperbolic discounting—the tendency to overvalue rewards now and undervalue them later. This cognitive bias works in my favour when I trick myself into making commitments now that I will keep at a set time in the future. I am faithful to my calendar; if it says I am supposed to do something, I tend to do it. So I look ahead to uncommitted blocks of time and plug in a commitment to focus on a particular task.
- Stop Before You’re Done
When I have long tasks to complete – ones that will require multiple work sessions – I’m careful to stop my work at a place that makes it easier (and more pleasant) for me to pick it back up later. I limit my appointment to finish the hard part so that I’d feel enthusiastic about picking it up again later. Thereby being positively enthusiastic to get started again, because I know exactly where I am going.
- Create Satisfying Episodes
Psychologist Roy Baumeister has shown that your motivation is a finite resource. I find this to be especially true in the grind of tasks that are hard to enjoy. If I think of myself in the first person, I tend to be merciless, beating myself up for not getting anything done. But when I think of myself in the third person, I tend to be more sympathetic of this limited resource. Design your work episodes to maximise your satisfaction, not grind you into depletion.
- Feel the Endorphins
Busy people tend to not savour the endorphins that come with having completed a task. Develop a habit of stopping and feeling the earned satisfaction from getting a block of work finished. Take in the joy of having completed something worthwhile. This creates new neural connections that associate productivity with pleasure rather than resentment.
- Use the Power of the Notepad
I get an embarrassing amount of gratification out of putting a check in a box. I have a notepad and make a list of the five things I want to get done before a certain time. Then I draw a little empty box next to each. That way I feel compelled to get them done. Also, don’t turn on the TV or open your social media!
- Reward and Renew Yourself
One of the reasons people lose their enthusiasm for being efficient and productive is that it can feel like a relentless grind—there’s always more to do. Don’t burn yourself out. If I have a lot to get done, I’ll make some reasonable commitments to get things done but I also allow time for renewal before diving back into work. Also, treat yourself as you would a valued employee—give lots of praise and encouragement for the great stuff you get done.
Vermaak says diagnosing what is keeping you stuck and creating a plan that will lead to desirable and lasting change is possible with the right tools.
“Whether you are struggling to change a bad habit or looking to improve your performance, having the right skills and support can help you achieve self-directed change.”
The Change Anything training programme, created by VitalSmarts and provided by The Human Edge, equips you with these skills providing you with a comprehensive, systematic process for changing behaviour and experiencing new levels of productivity, engagement and success.