Practical Tips for Procrastination
It can be hard to overcome procrastination, but today we’re going to talk about practical tips for overcoming procrastination. It’s important, first of all, to be very clear about what needs to be done. If a task is too big, or you have too many things on your list, it can be hard to know where to start. If the task is small, you might be thinking it’s worse than it actually is. Being clear about what needs to be done will allow you to be one step closer to marking things off your list.
Where to start…
The first place to start may seem obvious, but write out a “To-Do” list. You might have multiple to-do lists; one for short-term and one for long-term items. Depending on your situation you may have lots of things on your list, or just one big thing that you have put off.
Break it down
Break each task down into its smallest possible component. This can help you know where to start and make tasks seem less overwhelming. No matter how small a step may seem, be sure to include all possible steps when breaking down the task.
Track your time
Let’s face it, when we procrastinate, we’re not great at telling time. Start keeping a record of tasks you regularly have problems with due to miscalculating the time amount of time it will take to complete. Go back, do these tasks, and actually time how long it takes you.
How to do it…
Once you know what needs to be done, it can be hard to know how to get started on it. There a few different ways you can get started…
Do the worst first
Try doing the tasks you’re dreading most first. Once that’s done, everything else will feel like a breeze. This is great for small, but dreaded tasks such as talking to someone you don’t want to speak to.
Start doing a task on your list that you actually enjoy and energises you. Once it’s completed, move onto another task you’ve been putting off without taking a break. It will allow you to use the momentum and motivation you’ve gained from the first task to get the next one done.
5 Minute Rule
Try agreeing to work on a task you’ve been putting off for only five minutes. Five minutes isn’t that long, right? At the end of that five minutes, reassess and see if you can spend just another five minutes on the task, and so on and so on. You’ll likely be surprised how much time you’re able to extend working on the task.
Set your “Prime Time”
We each tend to function better at different times of the day, so use that time to your advantage. Additionally, different times of the day are better suited for different tasks. Boring tasks like household chores might be easier to tackle in the morning, while you may prefer to do creative tasks at night.
If’ you’re feeling unfocused while you’re trying to complete a task, try taking a moment to close your eyes and focus on your breath. Maybe even count the breaths in and out for a just a couple of minutes. Once your breathing has settled and you feel focused, try returning to the task.
A really important part of approaching tasks and goals in a productive way is to actually plan rewards and ‘play time’. Often the things we could use to reward ourselves (e.g., pleasure, socialising), are the very same things that distract us and get us procrastinating in the first place, and hence make us feel guilty. The key is to let these rewards be guilt-free, by having pre planned them and fitted them around the work that needs to be done. People will often think “I don’t have time” or “I don’t deserve rewards or fun”. But think of it this way, the things you don’t like doing tend to zap some of your energy, whereas rewards, leisure and pleasure help replenish your energy, allowing you to do better quality work in the long run. It is all about a balance between pleasure and achievement.
This blog post was adapted from Module 5: Practical Techniques to Stop Procrastination.