Trick Your Brain to Get Started on a Dreaded Job or Project

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Humans procrastinate tasks and projects for a variety of reasons. Most people have conditioned themselves to postpone or ignore any number of activities because they:

  • have become conditioned to heightened arousal stemming from completing a task at the last minute,
  • have issues with fear, perceived failure, or
  • they avoid decision-making because they don’t want to make a mistake or take responsibility for their outcomes.

Whichever is the case, you can recondition yourself to tackle work without delay.

When it comes to work you are paid to perform, it doesn’t pay to put it off. It can cost you your productivity, your sense of accomplishment, your reputation and even your continued employment. Top talent employees are admired not only for their expertise, but also for their ability to get things done in a timely manner.

Recognizing your tendency to procrastinate is a first step to changing the maladaptive behavior. See it and admit it. Understanding why you do it – arousal response, fear/failure reaction or decision immobilization – gets you to the root cause. Finally, realizing the fallacy behind each can help deflate the power they have over you.

Deferring work until the last minute because you think you work better under pressure is an untruth. You may have more incentive to get busy because you are under the gun to meet a deadline, but it doesn’t result in improved work product. In fact, more errors are made under stress and little time is left for adequate review and correction. And procrastinating to the last minute never wins you team praise. Coworkers are more apt to be irritated by eleventh-hour deliverables.

Fear of not knowing how to tackle a job or worry about potential failure isn’t cause to hold off starting a project. The fear is a result of the story you tell yourself about a future event. Anxiety subsides once you dive in. And, it’s true; you learn by doing. Trust that you’ll have what you need, including knowledge, as you begin and progress through an assignment.

Postponement because of indecision creates approach-avoidance angst. The best way to beat it is to decide and move forward full speed ahead. Yes, you might make a wrong choice; no one gets it right 100 percent of the time. You’re human. Plus, once you take a stab in one direction, you can autocorrect and go in the opposite direction with time to spare. Just do it.

If procrastination is your Achilles’ heel, you can employee some techniques to kick your habit and shift into high gear.

  1. Disregard how you “feel.” Use your rational, intellectual barometer instead and get started anyway. Once you start a project, it’s never as bad as preconceived notions you had about it. Actually, it usually is far easier and brings great satisfaction to get on top of and complete. As far as feelings go, you’ll feel far better working on a job than shelving it. Using depression as an example, depressed individuals often state that they don’t feel like partaking in activities, but the very activities make them feel less depressed.
  2. Break your project into mini bits. It’s easier to tackle a smaller task than one gigantic one. You’ll feel better and better with each completed step. Even an outline of what you need to do is a small action that you can complete and celebrate. Schedule time on your calendar for each little stage of the project.
  3. Challenge your assumptions. You’ll find that you can disprove most of them when it comes to procrastination. Oddly enough, creativity begets more creativity. Magically, it’s as if just jumping in gets the wheels turning.

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