procrastinating woman at her desk

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Do you tend to procrastinate? The first step in changing behaviour is to accept that the stress isn’t worth it

It was a Thursday and I’d been given a deadline of two weeks on Wednesday. When did I start? Yep, you guessed it: the day before. Not that day, no siree.

The reason we give to others and ourselves is: I work better under pressure.

Do you heck? You don’t. You are much more stressed when you work under pressure. Plus, you don’t need to. Stop convincing yourself you do by knowing why you really do it, and then use our workaround. It’s all about mindset, and with a few simple brain hacks, you can reduce your stress significantly.

Back to my story. My boss had asked me to present at a client meeting, which was two weeks away, on Wednesday. The logical part of my brain said, “I must get this done soon. I’ll start on it tomorrow, because I have a clear day.” I came to work the next day with great hopes and intentions. Here’s how my day went.

Got in. Coffee. Sat down at my desk. I’ll just have a quick look at my emails. A little while later I heard “Coming to the 10am catch-up?” Damn. I’d forgotten about that.

Got back to my desk at 11.15am. I must do that presentation for that client. Bags of time. Check my emails, take a few phone calls. Quick lunch, 2pm meeting. Back at my desk at 4pm. Must start that presentation. Email check. Must call a customer – and that turned into an urgent problem I had to solve.

Rinse and repeat until the day before the deadline. It is now Tuesday. Argh!

We don’t trust ourselves. This is why we work up against the deadline. Imagine if I’d started the presentation on the day of the brief – I’d have tinkered with the font, the headlines, the everything, every day. So, our brain quietly and stealthily calculates the exact time we need to do the presentation and then starts it. Normally the answer is the night before.

Changing this long-term behaviour is hard. The first step is accepting the needless stress just isn’t worth it. The second is to make a pact with yourself: “I’ll spend a total of four hours on this.”

The final step is to live the words ‘good enough’. We don’t need perfection. We do need the presentation to be good enough. By doing these three steps, we practise a little much-needed self care.