Procrastination isn’t just a fun word to say, it’s also a really important subject to address because it seems to affect so many people in such a constant basis. Therefore, I believe that if it is addressed properly, you may be able to get a whole lot more done and feel better about yourself at the same time. If you’re wondering how to overcome procrastination then I’d like to share 10 tips that help me to push past slumps and the avoidance of tasks. We all face procrastination each day and I’ll be honest, I even had some procrastination when I was thinking of writing this post.
I stuck the TV on and ended up being distracted, telling myself I’d finish the post later. The irony is ridiculous but it proves my point. To overcome procrastination you have to do it over and over again. That’s because procrastination exists like a fly on your shoulder and you have to keep flicking it away every time it buzzes around your head.
What is procrastination?
Verywellmind.com describes procrastination as;
This is 100% spot on. However, it’s important to understand why you procrastinate in the first place and I can think of a few reasons why I personally put things off until the last minute. For me, I find myself putting things off because I’m either;
- worried about doing them or anxious
- don’t feel confident enough to do them
- find them boring
- don’t find them rewarding
- don’t set a clear goal for the task
- feel like there’s something else i could be doing
- lack motivation
Personally, most of my procrastination comes from feeling anxious about tackling a task. Procrastination is something present everyday from small tasks like sticking to an exercise routine to bigger ones. I can think of a great example of this when a few years ago I had some complicated bills to sort out and being someone that didn’t like speaking on the phone or dealing with money, I put it off over and over again. Needless to say, putting off this type of thing only makes it worse. You end up getting more bills and charges until you eventually sort it out.
Once I’d finally taken action I obviously felt like a huge weight had been taken off my shoulders. Every day you procrastinate, the anxiety of completing the task grows bigger and bigger until you final tackle it. In this example, I wasn’t confident in myself to sort the problem out. After I’d dealt with it, I realised it wasn’t really as bad as I’d made it out to be for all that time.
Most of us are plagued by lots of smaller tasks throughout the day like sending an awkward email or tiding up the kitchen. We keep putting them off and we only feel worse for it.
The anxiety is intense on the build up to facing the task but it quickly dissolves like the pop of a balloon. Here’s a simple diagram I made showing this;
Why do we procrastinate in the first place?
Science tells us that the limbic system in our brain (pleasure centre) and our prefrontal cortex (evolved part) are in a constant battle. You limbic system wants you to be comfortable whereas your prefrontal cortex is always trying to be logical and rational and tell you to just get things done, even if they’re painful to do. So, this explains why you’re always torn between putting things off and the ultimate satisfaction of completing tasks! That’s why it’s not as simple as ‘overcoming procrastination’, instead, it’s a case of overcoming procrastination over and over again, everyday. So, you can’t blame yourself too much for procrastinating. You’re not being lazy but you might just need a bit more self-confidence to get a task done.
How to overcome procrastination over an over again
I’d call myself a procrastinator but I’m definitely not as bad as I was. The truth is, I still put things off for too long a lot of the time but I use a few tactics to overcome procrastinating on a daily basis. There are lots of ways to stop procrastinating and different things will work for different people. For example, if you’re depressed then you may need to speak to a professional however if you’re a general procrastinator, these following tips may help you.
1. Chop up a difficult task
If you have a large to-do list, try picking the biggest task to begin with. Once you have identified it, start by breaking it down into chunks. If it seems overwhelming, just start doing it and if you can’t do the next segment, leave it for later or the next day. Usually when I begin to tackle a complex task I end up seeing it all the way through because when you start, it’s never as bad as you think it’s going to be. It’s worth noting that this only really happens when you have enough time to see it through but if you break it up, it feels like you’re completing lost of smaller tasks.
2. Set aside the time for a task
Our days are busy but there’s always time to get a few things done. If you think about it what else would you be doing? Watching the TV? playing a game? I know that my downtime is fairly unproductive if I don’t kick procrastination. I usually set an hour or so in the evening aside (when I can) to do some drawing or work on my blog or colouring pages. When blogging or creating colouring pages/books, there’s lots of small tasks to complete like sketching, scanning, researching etc. If I can get some of those tasks done each day then over time I know I’ll get a lot done, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the end of the day. When it gets to the end of the week, I know I’ve done at least seven hours of work.
3. Satisfy your limbic system and your prefrontal cortex
I don’t think it has to be a constant battle between the different regions in your brain. I’ll admit, I’m still a big video game player which I enjoy but also get annoyed about because I always feel like I could be getting something more productive done. However, I had a brainwave, what if I exercised and played games at the same time? Several times a week I use my exercise bike for 45 minutes or so but every now and again I’ll play a video game whilst I cycle. This way, I get a sense of pleasure but I know that I’m being relatively productive at the same time. If you can satisfy your two brains at the same time, you’ll kill off your procrastination. Admittedly, it’s going to be hard to study and exercise at the same time however you could find an education podcast whilst you do exercise.
4. Throw your phone away
Okay, maybe not in the bin but I’ve found myself getting so frustrated by my own procrastination (mindless scrolling) that I’ve literally thrown my phone across the room. I’ve found it easier to put your phone somewhere whilst you get to work on a task. The physical act of tossing it somewhere makes me feel like “I’m done with that sh*t”, until I’ve done what I’ve needed to do. I’m a sucker for checking my emails on my phone but I also know that there will be more to check later if I just leave it and dedicate time to checking it. Phones are probably the #1 reason for procrastinating these days because there’s so many things on them that you can check or read up on. I like to think back to 2005 when all I had was my two hands and no one telling me about where they were checking in. I personally think that it’s a good idea to recreate this time period where phones barely existed and the internet was crap, a time when there were less electronic distractions.
5. Forgive yourself
I don’t like the cliché; “tomorrow is a fresh start” but it does have some truth to it. Even if you class yourself as a ‘master procrastinator’ you always have a chance to change this. Tomorrow you can always set yourself a task to do, then another, then another no matter how small they are. If you tackle a few smaller tasks then you’ll feel like you can tackle bigger ones more easily. However, it starts with going easy on yourself. I’ve noticed that most people can complete difficult tasks but those that actually do are the ones that push past their procrastination. I used to always think that things were harder to achieve because I’d always leave them ‘half done’ but in reality it was my own procrastination getting in the way. I’d either stop pursuing something because it was hard or because I’d think something else was better or more worthy of my time. You can always change that attitude. In my case, I’d say I’m the victim of ‘shiny object syndrome’ where I find myself thinking I could be pursuing something better, therefore quitting what I’m in the middle of.
6. Limit distractions and noise
Noise can mean literal noise or it can mean distractions. As well as setting a bit of time aside to do something, I find it easier to write when I don’t have the music or TV on in the background. My head is clearer and I can concentrate on the task at hand. The truth is we’re always drawn towards the most comforting thing for the quick gratification however to overcome procrastination, I think you have to delay that for the long-term gratification. If you allow distractions to get in your way, you’re giving yourself an excuse to be distracted by something more comfortable at every turn. It’s not just the cell phone, it’s most electronic devices, books, napping etc. Distractions are everywhere so it’s a mindful task to consciously shove everything out of the way and knuckle down to avoid procrastination.
7. Log your tasks
When I first started to exercise on my then new exercise bike, I randomly used it when I felt like it. After several months of using it this way, I decided that I would for once actually track my progress. I started a new Google Sheets spreadsheet and logged my time, speed, difficulty and calories burned. I had the thought that I’d be able to look back over the past year (once I’d got there) to see how far I’d gone and how many extra calories I’d burned over the 12 months. Logging this task was important, otherwise I’d just be doing it with real no intention. Every time I log my workout I get a sense of accomplishment that I wouldn’t get if I didn’t log my progress. This helps to avoid procrastination because I know what I’m working towards.
8. Set clear goals
You need to set clear goals if you’re going to even attempt to overcome procrastination. When I began using my exercise bike, my goal was to cycle at least the length of the UK or the equivalent of some famous routes (over 500 miles). Even if you’re trying to complete smaller tasks, I find it easy to list what I’m going to want to achieve whether in my head or physically on paper, for example, it could be putting laundry on, tiding the lounge and hoovering the house. Unless you love cleaning, these are all boring things that you have to do but they don’t usually give you any pleasure. They’re all things that would be easy to put off and procrastinate over. If you commit to these smaller jobs one after the other, you may find that you have the motivation to keep going and clean the whole house. The long-term gratification in this is you won’t have to tidy the house again for at least a few days. You can keep a checklist or a log of all your small goals on your notes app.
9. Turn the mundane into habits
These types of mundane tasks are all things we have to do. However, if you just do them then they become habits over time. It’s never easy trying to build a firm habit but the only way I’ve found is to just crack on with boring repetition until you either end up enjoying doing a task or it’s just something that comes naturally to you. The only thing that ever stops you is procrastination itself. For example, I used to be messy and leave clothes everywhere, not to mention I never used the washing machine and relied on my partner to do it all. However, wanting to keep our place nice, I opted to not only tidy up when I saw something messy (instead of procrastinate and tell myself I’d do it later) but I’d keep doing more so that over time I just became a lot tidier and I found that I didn’t mind tidying anymore.
10. Keep the end goal in mind
The end goal is important to keep in mind. I always find that when I’m procrastinating, I’m anxious. When I’m not doing something I know I should be, I get agitated too. When I’ve completed a task or a set of mundane tasks, I always have a sense of being satisfied, as if I have earned my rest or play time. I always try and keep the end goal in the back of my head, I tell myself; “I want the kitchen to look a certain way, therefore I need to do x, x and x,” and, “I want to see my final artwork by the end of the weekend so I know I’ve used my time well.” If you visualise what you want to achieve then you can make small steps towards it. Before you know it, you’ve dragged yourself out of procrastination.
Overcoming procrastination is a daily job
Unless you’re David Goggins, overcoming procrastination is a daily job that takes effort. It’s not easy to motivate yourself all the time and taking time out to relax is important too. I find that overcoming procrastination to be a mindset that takes practise, just like anything else. However, by using these 10 tips, you may find it easier to avoid procrastination every time that fly buzzes around your head and tells you to just watch one more episode on Netflix!
This post was previously published on Projectenergise.com.
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The post How To Overcome Procrastination Over and Over Again (10 Tips) appeared first on The Good Men Project.