Procrastination hurts, so why do we do it?

We all do it. Put off simple tasks that should only take a moment but, for some unfathomable reason, we procrastinate doing. Putting a dish in the sink instead of taking the extra moment to load it into the dishwasher. Making that follow-up call to a client. Taking care of some tedious paperwork. Filing. (Do we still file things?) It's easy to understand why we procrastinate on bigger chores. They can seem a bit overwhelming, require a high level of energy or mental focus, or be time-consuming (when can I set aside a solid 4 hours to work on this project?) So why put off the little things?

One possibility is that there could be an element to the task that is new or unfamiliar. I need to change the ink cartridge in the printer, but I’ve never done it before. Even though I think it’s a simple task, I’m not mentally ready at this moment to take on something new.

Another reason small tasks can get put off is that they lack hard deadlines. If there’s no urgency, it’s easy to shuffle something to the bottom of the deck.

Additional tasks that stem from doing the job present another challenge. You need to make a call to a client to see if they've had a chance to look over the revisions for their latest medical device marketing banner ad, and you may not be ready to tackle making those revisions. Or tackle talking to the client.

Tactics for Getting Those Minor Tasks Out of the Way

Just do it. Motivation often follows action (instead of vice versa) so start doing the task. As Sir Isaac Newton said, a body in motion tends to stay in motion.

Exercise the two-minute rule: If something takes less than two minutes, don't add it to your to-do list. Just knock it out.

Schedule it. If it’s a reoccurring task, add a hard time on your calendar for getting it done and stick to it. The structure can help turn it into a habit.

Nest it into another task or even enjoyable activity. For example, listen to your favorite podcast while filing, or checking in with a client while taking an afternoon coffee break.

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