How To Fight Procrastination
Procrastination can be risky and precarious, yet it remains one of the most alluring enemies of productivity. This is unsurprising considering that often times, what we put off are things that we don’t really want to do. But, like Benjamin Franklin once said, “You may delay, but time will not.”
In honor of National Fight Procrastination Day, which took place on September 6, we’ve put together a few tips to help you fight that urge to put that dreaded task off until another time.
1. Write It Down
Keeping a future task in your consciousness takes up a lot of space in our minds. While it may not be in our direct focus, our unconscious knows it’s there and it causes more stress in the background than we realize. So, taking the time to write tasks down gets the to-do stress out of our unconscious minds, which also gives us more space to complete the task. Making a to-do list is an excellent precursor for beginning the fight against procrastination. Additionally, for those who can be forgetful, it helps to ensure that the task will actually be completed.
2. Break It Down Into Steps
Sometimes when there is a large to-do, it can be overwhelming to think about having to get it all done. Breaking a bigger task into smaller parts makes it seem much more do-able and less intimidating, which can support us in actually beginning the task. For example, if your goal is to clean the entire house, break it down into individual rooms and smaller tasks. It will make the overall goal seem less intimidating. Also, as you check off each of the smaller tasks, it can help to motivate you to complete the next one.
3. Take the First Step
Have you ever noticed how it’s often the first step that is the hardest to complete? In the morning, it’s much easier to brush your teeth, get dressed, and eat breakfast than it is to actually get out of bed in the first place. This is because procrastination is highly linked to lack of motivation. Harnessing the motivation to begin is often harder than actually completing the task in and of itself. So, after you’ve broken the tasks down into smaller steps, focus only on completing the first step. The next steps after will seem much less daunting and more easily completed.
4. Reward Yourself
Setting up a reward system is a great way to help find that motivation. What is it that will help you to complete a task? If you love chocolate, maybe set yourself up to only be able to have a piece of chocolate once a task has been completed. Please note, if you choose this as a support system, it’s important not to cheat. While it may be tempting, it’s counter-productive to the entire goal. And if you allow yourself to cheat one time, it may be easier to allow yourself to cheat again. So, do yourself a favor and only reward yourself after the agreed-upon task has been completed.
5. Get Help From Others
If you find it difficult to hold yourself accountable, ask for assistance from a close friend or relative. Share with them your goal and the deadline that you’ve set for yourself and ask them to help hold you accountable. Ask if they would be willing to check in with you on your progress before the deadline and then again at the date of desired completion. It may also help to have a type of bet or agreement with them. For example, if you don’t complete the task in the time that you’ve allotted, you have to buy them dinner.
6. Remove Distractions
We all get distracted from time to time, and often, it’s out of our control. For example, a child may interrupt by asking for help with their own task, such as homework. But, there are also plenty of distractions that can be avoidable. Do what you can to keep these possible distractions at bay. If you are aware that television can often be distracting for you, don’t just turn it off, unplug it. This will create an additional step for you to even allow for the distraction, so you are more aware of the choice you are making to not complete the task at hand.
7. Evaluate Why
Sometimes when we’re procrastinating, there’s a reason behind it other than just not feeling motivated. It could be that we don’t want to begin the project because we have so much pressure on ourselves as to how it will turn out. We may not want to begin because of how badly we’ll feel if it doesn’t turn out the way that we want it to. So, if you find yourself continually putting something off, take a moment to ask yourself why that may be. If you don’t want to begin for fear of how it will turn out, work on letting go of that pressure, or, evaluate how you can support yourself even further in completing the task the way that you want it to actualize.
8. Just Do It.
Yes, this advice may seem obvious and not really that much of a tip, but in a way, it really is that simple. Sometimes, we can spend more energy on putting off a task than actually completing the task. A lot of procrastination is based on our desire to not do the task, so we spend a lot of time and effort avoiding it. So, if there’s something that you’re putting off just because you don’t want to do it, and it does need to get done, just bite the bullet and do it.
9. Or, Don’t Do It At All
It may seem counter-intuitive, but we all have things we may think need to be done, but really they don’t. Perhaps you have guests coming over tonight and you’ve decided that you really want to wax the floors to get them impressively shiny. But, will your guests really even notice? Furthermore, would they really care if you didn’t? Sometimes we overwhelm ourselves with the number of tasks and responsibilities that we take on. But if something really isn’t necessary, and the worry of getting it done is causing you stress, there’s no harm in simply deciding that it’s not worth your time, crossing it off the list and calling it complete.
The bottom line is that while procrastination is an alluring vice, it can ultimately cause more harm and stress to us in the long run.
We hope these tips can help you fight your own temptations for procrastination and assist you in getting things done. Try one or two that appeal to you, and be assured that your future self with thank you.
Melissa Schoenecker is a freelance writer and co-creator of the universe based in Venice, California. She received a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Wisconsin - Madison and a Master's Degree from the University of Santa Monica. She contributes to a number of blogs and online postings, but her best work can be found in her gratitude journal.