It’s Monday morning, you have a deadline to meet, and you are cursing yourself for not starting early. You know that this work is important and if you aren’t able to pull it off then you might end up in a big trouble.
How did you get into a situation? What went wrong? Why did you lose your focus?
Maybe you feel that 24 hours are too less to complete the work. But when you introspect you find that there were the hours that you spent checking social media, watching YouTube videos, the excessive “preparation,” the enjoyment breaks, and the time spent on other tasks that you could have safely left for next week.
Sounds familiar? If so then don’t worry, you aren’t alone!
Procrastination is a trap many of us fall in. It gives you a sense of enjoyment and relaxation from your busy day while in reality you might not have done anything. Whether your procrastination is a minor issue that’s simply hurting your productivity, or a major issue that’s preventing you from achieving your goals, you’ve probably tried to overcome your procrastination on your own before, and saw that this can be difficult to do.
This post is to help you beat procrastination in an effective way so that it never again becomes a barrier in your success.
Why We Procrastinate
If you are a procrastinator, you must have asked this question to yourself at some point- ‘Why do I procrastinate and put things off for tomorrow when I know, it’s not going to help me?’
You might have even decided and sweared time and again that the the last time you are procrastinating. But as it would have turned out to be, you could not get rid of this annoying habit.
But why do you actually procrastinate? The reason is not that simple as you would expect it to be. It is not because you worked hard and then want some rest neither its your laziness.
Whenever we need to perform a certain task, we usually rely on our self-control in order to get ourself to do so. Furthermore, our motivation, which is based on the desire for some reward which we will receive as a result of completing that task, can provide a helpful boost to our self-control, which helps us act in a timely manner.
However, there are various demotivating factors, such as anxiety or fear of failure, that have an opposite effect than our motivation, meaning that they can make us more likely to postpone our tasks unnecessarily, instead of getting them done in a timely manner.
In addition, there are also various hindering factors, such as mental exhaustion or distracting environments, that interfere with our self-control and motivation directly, in a way that also makes us more likely to procrastinate.
Whenever these demotivating and hindering factors outweigh our self-control and motivation, we end up procrastinating.
However, it is surely possible to overcome this procrastination with certain scientifically proven methods which have been discussed below.
How to Overcome Procrastination
Here are seven tips for overcoming that daunting task you’ve been avoiding, based on science:
1. Identify the Problem
If you want to successfully solve your procrastination problem, it’s important to first understand the exact nature of the problem that you’re dealing with.
Specifically, there are three main factors that you should consider when assessing the nature of your procrastination:
- When you procrastinate. This involves asking yourself in what situations do you procrastinate. For example, do you tend to procrastinate more when you’re working from home compared to when you’re working in the library? Do you struggle to finish tasks after you’ve started them or do you struggle to get started in the first place?
- How you procrastinate. This involves asking yourself what you do when you’re procrastinating. For example, do you browse social media, play video games, watch TV shows, go out with friends, or find small and unimportant tasks to complete?
- Why you procrastinate. This involves asking yourself what’s causing you to procrastinate. For example, do you constantly find yourself being distracted, or do you feel so overwhelmed that you don’t know how to get started?
Knowing these key issues is the first step in your commitment to beat procrastination. By taking the time to clearly identify the nature of your procrastination problem, you can then figure out a valid way to deal with it, instead of just hoping that things will be different in the future.
2. Set Small Goals to Begin With
Setting goals is important if you really want to overcome procrastination. Make it a point to pick up a task you have been procrastinating about and commit yourself completely towards finish that one task.
When you do this, it’s crucial to make sure that your goals are as clear as possible, since you are more likely to procrastinate when it comes to goals that are vague, compared to goals that are clearly defined.
For example “be more healthy” is a relatively vague goal, and you are therefore more likely to procrastinate when it comes to pursuing it than you are when it comes to pursuing a more concrete goal such, as “drink only water and avoid eating fast food for the next month”.
Similarly, a goal such as “start exercising” is relatively vague, and is therefore more likely to lead to procrastination than a goal that is more concrete, such as “go to the gym 3 times a week, and work out for at least 30 minutes each time”.
Breaking large tasks into smaller sub-tasks can prompt you to take action, by making large tasks feel less overwhelming, and by allowing you to experience a continuous stream of rewarding progress.
3. Five Minute Miracle
This is one of the best techniques for people who struggle with procrastination. The Five Minute Miracle involves asking yourself; “Hmm, what action can I take in less than five minutes TODAY that moves this forward even the tiniest bit?” Once you’ve identified a small action, set a timer for five minutes and spend five minutes working on the task. Research shows that once you start something, you’re much more likely to finish it. This is due to a psychological phenomenon called the Zeigarnik effect, which says that unfinished tasks are more likely to get stuck in your memory. (This is also why our mind gets stuck in a loop thinking about all the things we haven’t yet completed.) Remember: Small action is still action. Five minutes can make all the difference.
4. Prepare an Action Plan
Once you’ve set your goals and identified the nature of your procrastination problem, you can create a plan of action that will allow you to stop procrastinating and start getting things done.
To create a plan of action, you need to figure out which anti-procrastination techniques you should use, and how to use them. Some of the techniques you can follow are:
- Make it easier for you to get started. For example, leaving the document that you need to work on open on your computer before you go to sleep will make it easier for you to start working on it once you sit down at the computer the next day.
- Make it easier for you to keep going once you’ve started. For example, putting your phone on silent mode and out of sight reduces the likelihood that you will be distracted by notifications while you’re working, which will make it easier for you to focus on your work.
- Make it harder for you to avoid working. For example, turning off the WiFi on your computer and phone removes the temptation to procrastinate on social media instead of writing your paper.
You can use any combination of techniques that you want, and you should pick the ones that fit you best given your particular situation, since different techniques will work differently for different people, and will even work differently for the same person in different situations.
5. Learn Time Management
Time management is a crucial aspect in overcoming procrastination. It is one of those most essential life skills which each person should know and practice exhaustively. It is the key ingredient in every successful person’s story. The iconic statement of Benjamin Franklin, ” The lost time is never found again”, is in itself an epitome of the significance of time management and the crucial role that it could play in one’s life.
Your aim must be to master time management. This would help you to be more disciplined about how you use your time and do your work. A schedule in place will also motivate you to work at the particular time you have planned, avoiding laziness.
For example, you can set up a routine of doing creative work early in the morning before checking emails or social media, which is a good way to ensure that you start your day being productive, and by completing your most important tasks while you still have a clear head.
The routine that you establish should take your daily productivity cycles into account, which means that different routines will work for different people.
6. Be Accountable to Someone
It can be very helpful to have an accountability buddy.
Being accountable triggers the human reaction of being responsible. Notice how you somehow finish your project even in a very short time when you know that you have a boss to whom you are answerable for this project. You could apply the same in your daily life to boost your productivity.
So, find a boss for yourself. This boss may be your friend, someone from your family, or even your diary. You don’t essential need a human to be your boss. Make it a habit to tell whatever you did in a day to your diary and then judge the same objectively. You would soon be introspecting and would soon find out where you failed and what you did right.
This technique of having a boss for yourself makes you more self aware and keeps you on track. Even if want to procrastinate, you really can’t because you have someone to answer.
7. Reward Yourself
Once you have completed a task (or even a small portion of a larger task), it is important to reward yourself for your efforts.
Give yourself the opportunity to indulge in something that you find fun and enjoyable, whether it’s attending a sporting event, playing a video game, watching your favorite TV show, or looking at pictures on a social sharing site.
Take time to pat your back whenever you do something good. You don’t know how much boost this simple act of praising yourself can give to your self esteem and your productivity.
When you are praised, you instantly make it a point to repeat the same thing all the time which gained this appreciation for you. Additionally, what you can do is reward yourself. These rewards can vary as per the significance of the work.
So for instance, if you did something right and on time which was on the top of your priority list reward yourself with a lunch at your favorite restaurants. Similarly, if you did something less important, you can reward yourself with a good movie night.
What you essentially need to do is to praise and reward yourself and this would eventually lead to a better and more productive routine for yourself.
The Bottom Line
Breaking the procrastination habit isn’t easy. The urge to put things off can be strong, especially when there are so many things around us to provide fun and entertaining distractions.
While procrastination might not be something you can avoid entirely, becoming cognizant of the reasons why you procrastinate and how to overcome those tendencies can help. By implementing these strategies, you might find that it is easier to put your nose to the grindstone and get started on those important tasks.