Putting things off can be a working parent’s biggest nightmare!
“Putting-a-job-off-until-tomorrow”, or procrastination, is something we all have in common. There are times (and places) in our lives when procrastination causes mere inconvenience. For some of us, it can even be a thrill to beat the deadline at the last minute! But for the working parent, procrastination can cause disaster.
I may confess to procrastination-panic when I put off getting school bags ready all weekend and finally discover the PE kits need to be washed on a Sunday evening.
How do we prevent these minor (and sometimes not so minor) mishaps from re-occurring in our lives?
Researchers suggest that 25% of adults procrastinate over their work. When this is re-occurring, it can cause stress, anxiety and low self-esteem.
Science tells us there are three steps to consider:
- The reason we procrastinate
- Forgiving ourselves for procrastination
- Managing procrastination with a few clever moves
1. Why do you procrastinate?
We put something off until a later time, often not just for convenience, such as avoiding the foul-smelling PE kit or not being in the mood to respond to an email. Often we avoid the task because it gives us an uncomfortable feeling: getting the school bags ready on a Friday reminds us that we will have to return to school, or responding to an email might force us to engage with a difficult person at work.
Once we can identify WHY we have let something slip, it is easier to build in an action plan to prevent it from happening again.
Once we have identified WHY we procrastinated, a small step is necessary before we move on to the action plan.
2. Forgive yourself
You are only human, and we all procrastinate. However, research into students’ procrastination has shown that when students ‘forgive’ themselves for procrastinating on test preparation, they tend to procrastinate less for the next test.
Trying to motivate yourself from a place of anger can make you even more reluctant to do the task the next time.
3. Prevention is better than cure!
- How do you prevent Procrastination?
- Identify each time why you procrastinated (as above)
- Write a checklist for the task (if appropriate)
- Set the alarm or add it to the calendar as a reminder for next time
As for my children’s PE kits? Well, a ridiculous alarm on my phone on a Saturday morning says: Don’t forget to wash the PE kits!
This post was originally written for Careering into Motherhood.
You can also find a written exercise to support you with procrastination in our Free Resources section.