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Top Tips to Avoid Procrastination in Your Projects

Do you find yourself putting off intimidating or unpleasant tasks? Luckily, you're not alone. Procrastination is a frustrating, but understandable, reality for many project managers. Studies show that 1 in 5 people regularly procrastinate. Odds are, this is affecting your team - or even you directly.

Most people procrastinate on work they find stressful or unenjoyable, but avoiding it only heightens stress. There are some who thrive on the adrenaline rush and produce great work when they leave their tasks to the last minute. However, this is a relatively small group.

In reality, procrastination often results in endless to-do lists, confused outputs and lower morale. Communication is key, but not at the detriment of your work. In our experience, many project managers make the mistake of spending so much time discussing tasks at hand, very little actually gets done.

If you think procrastination might be holding your projects back, try to avoid blame. Feelings of guilt often cause greater anxiety and only exacerbate the problem.

Instead, use our tips to get your team back on track and steaming ahead.

Lead by example

You can't expect your team to stay focused and efficient if you are avoiding overwhelming tasks and missing deadlines. It's vital that you set a good example for your team to not only demonstrate good habits, but to keep spirits high.

Make sure you're delegating. Some project managers are tempted to try to do it all. No matter how talented and experienced you are, it's simply not possible. Not only does this lead to disappointment, it makes procrastination highly likely. The natural temptation is to tick off the easier, shorter jobs first, but this leaves limited time for the more difficult, stressful tasks. Effective delegation prevents this and allows you to keep on top of progress as your deadlines approach.

Make it manageable

Part of effective delegation is ensuring the work you assign is manageable. Overwhelming your team with either mass quantities of work or extremely high expectations helps no one. Inevitably, some tasks are more tricky and take more time. However, getting down to the real details and breaking the job down makes it more manageable. A lack of understanding about what is really needed increases the chance of procrastination. If you feel like you can't easily understand what is expected of you, you're more likely to avoid it. Keeping the problem you're trying to fix in focus makes the journey there easier.

Don't paralyse your team with ridiculously high expectations. Procrastination has been linked to perfectionism. If excellence is expected, some respond by avoiding the task entirely out of fear of underachieving. Cultivating a comfortable environment where perfection is not always the aim will actually maximise your team's productivity.

Maintain morale

According to The New York Times, procrastination is 'a way of coping with challenging emotions and negative moods induced by certain tasks'. Despite being proven to increase stress, procrastination often results from stress in the first place. If your team don't enjoy their work or find purpose in it, it's more likely that they will put off their tasks, prioritising those they find easier or more fun.

Now, you might be thinking 'work isn't meant to be fun!' We all have to get on with jobs that we don't enjoy. It's an inevitable part of life and something you can't avoid entirely. However, recognising your team and their strengths is an essential skill for any project manager. Understanding where each team member excels helps maximise their investment in their work.

Use technology to your advantage

Clear and detailed plans are essential to the successful delivery of any project. However, the balance between huge incomprehensible jobs and overwhelming detail can be tricky. Although breaking down huge tasks minimises fear of what's ahead, if the level of detail becomes too granular, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. To prevent this, make good use of software to keep the process simple and streamlined.

Technology can help you focus directly on the task at hand by prioritising based on urgency. Greater clarity aids productivity as you know exactly what needs doing and when. Tackling the difficult tasks head on isn't always easy, but does minimise procrastination. Using the right technology for you can make this process as painless as possible.

Procrastination is a natural impulse, but one you can help prevent by understanding why we procrastinate. Setting up routines, habits and technology to manage your time and make work less intimidating will help you get it done.

We know it's not easy, but we're not afraid to get stuck in at Projects that Deliver. We want to help you move past governance and procrastination to get it done and make your projects a success. Check out our website to learn more.

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