What Does Procrastination Mean?
The word ‘procrastinate’ has latin roots – it comes from a word that means ‘belonging to tomorrow’. It’s clear why: procrastination refers to the idea of putting something off or a delay in taking action.
Procrastination is an emotional subject:
Many people tend to think of procrastination as a way of avoiding tasks or activities that they simply don’t like, but there are deeper forces at work here: it’s a question of emotional regulation.
Procrastination occurs when we’re trying to avoid the emotional discomfort that we, typically subconsciously, associate with the task that we’re putting off.
What emotional state and why we are trying to avoid it varies from person to person, task to task but all related to fear and self-doubt or overwhelm and stress.
According to one seminal book on the topic, there are six different types of procrastination, all with different underlying emotional roots and triggers. Check out this video for a summary of the six types of procrastination (maybe you’ll recognise yourself in one or two of them).
Procrastinating At Work
Think about your job and the tasks that you’re likely to put off. Is it sitting down to write a strategic plan that will be reviewed by your boss? Is it recording a training video that will be watched by colleagues? Is it getting back to a client with some bad news or a difficult message?
Now that you know your tendency to put off the task has an emotional root, are you able to link your particular hesitation to an underlying emotion?
Identifying the emotion associated with procrastination can be a powerful first step in getting started in the very immediate term. Doing this regularly can lessen the likelihood of procrastinating over the same task in the future.
How To Tackle Procrastination
There are many resources that cover techniques you can use to tackle procrastination, a new concept that is gaining popularity after the pandemic is ‘virtual co-working’.
FLOWN is a company that was started to improve people’s relationship with working; to help them get more done and feel good doing it.
Describing itself as a ‘deep work toolkit’ FLOWN brings together some of the most effective ‘stop procrastinating’ techniques and helps its members apply them in real-time.
This happens via a series of live and facilitated sessions that help members plan and structure their day (Take-Offs), tackle their most important tasks whilst working (Flocks) and take meaningful, intentional breaks via movement and meditations (Recharge).
Eat The Frog
One of the most simple but also powerful techniques for getting things that you may normally avoid done is ‘eating the frog’.
Sound tasty? No, and that’s exactly right.
Eating the frog refers to identifying the thing that is most important for you to achieve in a day but also a thing that you are likely to avoid, for whatever emotional-regulatory reason.
If you can identify your ‘eat the frog’ task and block time early in your day specifically to tackle that one, most important item then you’re much more likely to both start and complete that work.
The less specific you are and the later you leave the task in the day, the less likely you are to get it done.
The concept comes from another seminal book on the topic of procrastination: Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy.
The FLOWN team uses live ‘Take-Off’ sessions to reflect on work (and associated emotions), plan the most important tasks for the day, before jumping into a ‘Deep Dive’ Flock session online to eat the frog first thing.
ADHD and procrastination
Enquiry about and understanding of ADHD is rapidly growing; what was once a subject more closely associated with ‘naughty boys at school’ is increasingly being discussed in wider society and as a subject between employees and employers.
Importantly, the conversation is happening with an acknowledgement of the positive traits that are often associated with the condition, as well as the challenges.
However, while procrastination is something that affects everybody to different extents, it’s widely acknowledged that it often manifests itself more prominently in people with ADHD.
One of the techniques that features prominently in FLOWN is body-doubling, an approach that has been used (often unknowingly) by the ADHD community for some time to tackle procrastination. Body-doubling involves working in the presence of another person, the social accountability creates an increased likelihood to focus and ignore distraction.
This simple technique can be a game-changer for people with ADHD – and explains why so many people with ADHD have found FLOWN’s sessions to provide a transformative anchor for attention.
So next time you’re fidgeting at your desk wishing you could get started on something, remember.
- Your putting it off has an emotional root. Can you identify it?
- Can you identify your ‘frog’ task, and can you take the first step to doing it immediately?
- How can you ‘anchor’ your attention? Do you need a body double? Try out FLOWN and find out!