I think the first time I realised I was a pro at procrastination was when I had a batch of notes on ways to beat it… and I never got round to reading them.
Let’s be honest, we all procrastinate at some point or another. Sometimes it’s not that big a deal, however it can become destructive if we’re not careful. This is why I thought I’d share tips on how to eliminate this toxic foe once and for all:
Start easy – I guess the operative word here would be ‘start’, which is the hard part for anyone trying to defeat this evil fiend. But if you manage to surpass this obstacle, you’ll manage to get that desired level of momentum, and what’s more, your brain will become more likely to pester you to keep working.
Interestingly, it all boils down to a psychological phenomenon known as the Zeigarnik Effect, which explains that incomplete tasks are more likely to get wedged into your memory. This also explains why to-do list items repeatedly pop into your head until they’re written down – because to-do lists actually tranquilise the Zeigarnik Effect.
Get organised – Clean and clear as you go. We often realise how big of a mess our space can be in, but rather than doing anything about it, we procrastinate. Spend fifteen minutes a day just cleaning and clearing things as you go. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how truly therapeutic de-cluttering can be.
Focus – This is one of the fundamental keys to shaking off procrastination. Many a time, we try to bite off more than we can chew, which makes us feel overwhelmed. Pick your poison. Choose ONE thing that you’ve been procrastinating on for a while and commit yourself to it. Set yourself a personal deadline in which to complete said task.
Break it down – Massive tasks can be distressing, which is probably why we tend to put them off. By taking that mammoth assignment and breaking it down into a few solid chores, you’ll automatically shrink your fear and help yourself get down to starting. This makes the stuff you need to do more doable.
Schedule time blocks and follow a Task List – If some tasks are creeping up on you and you have a lot of work to do on them, whip out your calendar and schedule some time blocks. This will give you a programmed time to work with. On a similar note, create a task list to make sure that you have the right things to do at the right time.
Don’t beat yourself up – Self-compassion is important when evaluating your procrastination. Just because you’re trying to beat it doesn’t mean you need to be hard on yourself. You’re more likely to get started in a timely manner if you’re kind to yourself (even if you’ve been slacking), rather than beating yourself up about it. Kill it with kindness. Studies show that the more you can forgive yourself for procrastination, the more you’re likely to overcome it and get the ball rolling.
Be mindful – Often, the roots of procrastination are perfectionism and a fear of failure. You need to come to terms with the fact that it’ll never be perfect. Instead, focus on doing something real and awesome. Another piece of advice is to doubt your self-doubts. The moment you start believing in yourself, procrastination will stop rearing its ugly head in.
Do a Power Hour – Put away all distractions and work in concentrated portions of time. Follow this by short breaks, in order to harness the optimum performance your brain and body has in store. According to science, our brain naturally goes through cycles with peaks and valleys. It’s crucial to balance concentrated, focused time with relaxation and integration, to maximise output.
Pick a playlist – Choose a list of songs that puts you in a state of flow with your work. Good music really motivates you and gets you energised. The brain likes to have a trigger to create a new habit, plus, you’re more likely to follow through when you’re feeling good.
Be an Early Bird, not a Night Owl – The best part about waking up early is that you can get quite a lot done, mainly because it’s quiet and still. You can concentrate on a few big tasks as soon as you get up and complete a load of work that would’ve taken much more time during the bustle of the day. Forget waking up early and working if you’re sleep deprived. Go to bed early, as the need to recharge our batteries is often overlooked. Moreover, exhaustion is a driving force to continue the vicious cycle of procrastination.
What techniques do you find helpful when you get stuck in a rut?