Distraction Alert!

If you’re reading this, you’re probably vulnerable to distraction. Turns out you’re not alone

By Sophie Cole

We’ve all been there. It’s 8 o’clock on a Sunday evening. You’ve spent all day fighting off the impending doom of Monday. Your head may still be a bit foggy from Saturday evening’s excesses.

Now, as the weekend draws to an end, you check your to-do list. And there it is: the thing you’ve been putting off all weekend. That dreaded meeting prep or email that needs to be in a client’s inbox by 8am tomorrow. It’s now or never. Time to face the awful task.

But alas, 10 minutes later you find that terrible sitcom you usually despise has you rapt. Pretty much anything in the world, even literal paint drying, seems more appealing than what you’re avoiding.

After spending the evening in a stressful state of guilty relaxation, you heave yourself to your desk and finally get on with THE THING. Which usually takes about 10 minutes and leaves you wondering why on earth you didn’t tackle it sooner.

Why do we do it to ourselves? Procrastination reduces overall levels of wellbeing and has been found to lead to lower levels of academic and professional achievement. Around 20 per cent of us identify as serial procrastinators, which sounds sinister, but just means we put things off at every available opportunity. And many who fall into this group report that their procrastination has an “extremely negative” effect on happiness. Yet, like a useless ex-boyfriend, something about procrastination keeps drawing us back.

Scientists have found that there are many reasons for procrastinating. In an article about procrastination in Psychology Today, Dr Pamela Wiegartz proposes that fear of failure can lie behind many of our hours guiltily scrolling through memes. We delay the thing that makes us feel uncomfortable or inadequate in favour of something that makes us feel happy and safe.

Surprisingly, Wiegartz also suggests that sometimes we fear success rather than failure. She says that procrastination can be driven by a reluctance to show our true abilities, anxious that people will expect too much of us in the future.

Often, it’s as simple as the task we have to complete being very boring or unpleasant. In our increasingly connected world, where constant stimulation bombards us from every angle, tedious tasks just cannot compete for our attention. Why would we bore ourselves ironing shirts when we could watch dogs on skateboards instead?

But procrastination can be beaten, or at least minimised. The smartphone is often the temptress that leads us astray, so apps have been developed which lock your phone for a set period of time and reward you if you resist the temptation to scroll.

Methods to maximise your concentration including the Pomodoro method can also help, as they encourage you to focus fully for short periods of time and allow regular short breaks to maximise concentration.

Podcasts and audiobooks can be great companions through boring tasks, as they require little attention but offer plenty of stimulation to stop procrastination winning the battle. Or give yourself an incentive to get the job done, like lining up a fun activity or delicious snack that’s yours as soon as you’ve cleared the decks.

There’s no one size-fits-all solution to procrastination. But with the right techniques and self-knowledge, you may just kick the terrible habit. At least for today.

Published: 18 March 2018

© Copyright Just Recruitment 2019

If you liked this article you may like to read – How to compliment colleagues: a five-step guide

You may also like to read – Five habits of great employees

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