Posted on Monday, 12 May 2014 in Business Skills

Get the job done – even when you just don’t want to

Admit it, we’ve all been there. That project that you haven’t started yet the deadline is looming, that phone call that you need to return but just keep putting off – and let’s not even talk about your neglected intention of exercising at least three times a week.  In an article posted by Heidi Grant Halvorson, a specialist in the field of motivational science, she points out how much less guilt and stress one would feel if one simply got on with the job at hand without procrastinating, not to mention how much happier and more effective we would be. 


Halvorson maintains that you can get over the tendency to procrastinate, simply by using the right strategy. But first – you need to find out why you’re avoiding that task in the first place. 


The first reason could be that you are what psychologists term a ‘prevention focused’ person. When you are prevention focused, your motivation for completing a task is essentially what could go wrong if you don’t get it done: you’ll lose your job, your credibility, your clients. Essentially, you need to complete tasks in order to avoid loss. In her book, “Focus”, Halvorson points out that research has shown that prevention motivation is enhanced by the anxiety of what could go wrong if you don’t do something – when you’re focused on avoiding loss, the only way to get yourself out of danger is to take immediate action. Halvorson’s advice if this sounds familiar, “scare the pants off yourself’. It may feel awful, but it will get the job done.  


Secondly, your failure to act could be as simple as you just don’t feel like doing it. At this point, your feelings are getting in the way of your productivity – ignore them. For Halvorson, it really is that easy. She believes that while you may not actually feel like doing something, there is nothing physically stopping you. “Remember, you don’t actually need to feel like doing it. There is nothing stopping you,” she says. The answer? Ignore your feelings and just get it done. 


The third reason for putting something off could be that the task is unpleasant, difficult or boring. We often try to solve this problem with will power, “next time, I will start working on this sooner”. The truth is, if we had that much willpower, we wouldn’t have put it off in the first place. 


What is more useful is to accept that one’s willpower is limited and instead make use of an “if-then” strategy. It’s a strategy that enables one to decide what you’re going to do, when and where you’re going to do it and leaving no space for deliberation when the time comes. For example, “if my boss does not bring up my request for an increase at this meeting, I will bring it up before the meeting ends.” There is time to negotiate with oneself – you have made the critical decision before the deadline arrives. “If-then” planning has shown in over 200 studies to increase rates of goal attainment and productivity by 200 – 300 percent. 


Read the full article here


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