“Procrastination is a natural part of life so lets learn to work with it not against it”
As a writer, I’m often plagued by the desire to procrastinate. Even thinking about procrastination makes me feel like putting something off until later. We all have something we avoid doing right away; it’s simply human nature. But, procrastination isn’t just an annoying inconvenience. It can cause many problems when left unchecked.
I’ve learned a few tricks over the years to get my momentum going when I struggle to complete a project. Here are my top 8 tips to nip procrastination in the bud:
1. Identify the problem
It’s important to know why you’re procrastinating. Procrastination is often a knee-jerk reaction brought on by other emotions. I know when I’m not feeling rested everything seems overwhelming and out of reach, my first instinct is to avoid doing it.
Understanding what brings the desire to procrastinate to the surface can help you defeat it. So ask yourself, what is the real issue? Is the project too big? Is the deadline impossible to meet? Is the topic one you’re not familiar with? If its health related, are you scared? Whatever it is, identifying the root of the issue and knowing why you’re fighting the inevitable helps make it seem less daunting.
2. Fake it ‘til you feel it
If thinking about the task you’re avoiding has made you feel down in the dumps, change your perspective. How you do this will depend on the task, but here is one example: If you’re anything like me, I wash laundry all week, but I wait until I run out of baskets to store clean clothes in to fold and put them away. I have seven baskets. When Saturday rolls around and I suddenly have enough laundry to clothe a small army waiting for me, the weight of that task feels like it’s crushing me. And the kids are, of course, nowhere to be found. So I turn up the radio and get my groove on while I enjoy what promises to be a solid hour, or two, of free time. Now that I’m calling it “free time” instead of “laundry day”, I feel so much less overwhelmed. You can apply this approach to anything really. It’s been proven time and again that using positive words to describe something, even if those words are in your own head, makes the speaker feel more optimistic and uplifted. Giving yourself a pep talk and putting a positive spin on the situation can motivate you to get going and make progress. And progress leads to more motivation. It’s a delightful circle that can find you completing your task in no time at all.
3. Cut yourself a little slack
There’s nothing more discouraging than starting something that you don’t have time for right now. What’s the point? Why even try just to fail? This is where being an adult comes in handy. One huge life lesson I’ve learned is that the world won’t end if I don’t do xyz on time. Obviously, if you’re putting off filling your gas tank and you run out of gas, this is a problem. But, most things in life are not as time-sensitive as we make them out to be. If you take a step back and look at the things you need to get done, you will find that a few really can be put off until tomorrow. If you can shift some of your responsibilities to another day, you can give yourself enough breathing room to get to work on the things that must be done today. Freeing up some time will eliminate a lot of stress as well, making you feel like you can achieve more. A positive take on the situation will give you the energy and focus you need to get the job done!
4. Avoid distractions
Ah, social media. The biggest time-suck ever invented. Sure, it’s nice to know exactly what your old roommate from college had for lunch today. But, is there anything online that needs your attention right this instant? Turn it off and avoid temptation. If the draw is too strong, set milestones and reward yourself with a social media break. Working for 30 minutes before you check the latest status updates is still getting something done. Before you know it, you’ll be on a roll.
5. Turn on some classical music
Research has proven that listening to classical music helps us focus more on a project or task. Classical music (without vocals) occupies part of the brain that is responsible for wandering thoughts and daydreams. With the distracted portion of our brain thoroughly occupied, the part of our brain longing to get things done can get down to business. I never believed this was possible until I took Trigonometry. The teacher was a big believer in this theory and taught entire classes with classical music playing softly in the background. Even when he was speaking, the music was on. After a few days, I rarely noticed the music. At the end of the semester, every single person in that class had at least a B, with the majority getting A’s. Even the kids that were the typical “bad students” succeeded in that class. Of course, that was due in part to his teaching style, but even the students who were disruptive in other classes managed to complete the class with focus and determination to succeed. So give classical music a shot, you may be surprised by the results.
6. Break it down
The bigger the task or goal, the more we’re tempted to run the other way and never look back. Any task can be broken down into smaller chunks. You wouldn’t eat a steak in one giant piece, so why approach life like that? Whatever it is you’re avoiding, find a way to break it down. Start with two parts. If those parts still seem too daunting, keep breaking it down until the urge to procrastinate gives way to the desire to get it done.
7. Stop making it complicated
Sometimes, we worry so much about how awful/hard/impossible something is that we set ourselves up to fail. Stop overthinking it! Anything is possible and any hurdle can be overcome. Just like breaking big things into smaller chunks, it’s so import to give yourself permission to take baby steps. Any step you take toward your goal is a step in the right direction. We’re so good at expecting too much out of ourselves too soon. Time spent beating yourself up for not succeeding right away, or for needing a ramp up period before you start to really make headway, is time wasted on negativity. Stop talking yourself out of succeeding and give yourself permission to shine on your own terms.
8. Just do it
This may seem so obvious, but if it were, you’d be done right now. There are times that I sit in front of my screen, waiting for the words to come. I’ve found, time and time again, that if I just start writing, the words come. I may start with just bare bones bullet points, but that’s something. Even this article, I broke down into pieces to make it easier. I started with just the eight tips. Once I started fleshing them out, the words flowed like a river onto the page. Trying to start an exercise regimen? Don’t plan to go to the gym x times a week. Just get up and go while you’re thinking about it! Sometimes, it’s just that easy!
It’s no secret that procrastination is a real problem in our lives. Whether it’s work related or part of your “honey do” list, it’s safe to say that there’s something left unfinished at any given moment in your life. Use these 8 tips to help motivate you to get things done. The more you do it, the easier it gets. Pretty soon, you’ll be finishing tasks with time to spare!