Procrastination. We all put things off sometimes. Even I put off writing this very article for a few days. I was “too busy,” or “didn’t feel like it.” It is not uncommon to delay, put off or avoid things on our to-do list.
There are many reasons why we procrastinate. We get things done when a deadline looms and action must be taken immediately. There’s nothing quite like the last-minute to complete homework, a presentation or getting fit for a holiday. The reward is instant. The response to a presentation done the night before is that very day. The holiday is that week, we get the slimmer body in all those vacation photos.
The issue lies when we are working towards something that is in the future or has a delayed deadline. James Clear talks a lot about Procrastination and he refers to the difference between our future and present self. We may want to have a better future for our selves yet our present self doesn’t want to give up the sweets for a healthier body, or get the project started because there’s a good TV show on.
Below, I would like to investigate some of the most common reasons why we procrastinate, and most importantly: how to stop procrastinating.
Have you ever noticed that you are more productive at certain times of the day? For me, I am most productive in the AM. As soon as I have had lunch I have a non productive period that can potentially linger for the remainder of the day. I know that if I don’t tick off as many things as possible pre lunch, that most of my list won’t get done.
It is extremely normal to feel motivated or only part of the day, maybe your best time is the evening, or straight after a lunchtime workout. Work with this time, know yourself and when you can get stuff done. It is ok to not be 100% productive, 100% of the time!
Some of the tasks we have to complete can be overwhelming. A major presentation for work, planning a wedding or large event, or the idea of losing 20 lbs for your health. All these goals or things ‘to-do’ can seem daunting and impossible if looked at as a whole.
If you are faced with an intimidating task, try breaking it down into more manageable pieces. I like the concept of bite – size chunks, that can broken off and achieved in a day or two. Create a smaller, easier to-do list that, you can have the satisfaction of ticking off parts (or chunks) often.
The issue with long-term goals or long deadlines, is the lack of sense of achievement. This concept is the crux of procrastination. We want to feel satisfied all the time, not one time after months of work. We need to have a sense of achievement frequently to help our motivation.
Use the idea of breaking a large task into smaller, more manageable pieces. Then after each and every piece. Reward yourself. Take a short walk. Get yourself a coffee. Enjoy a pedicure or good book. Whatever it is, make sure it is an enjoyable activity. This creates a reward for our present self, rather than having to wait for the future accolade.
Even better, is to reward yourself as you are doing the activity. Can you go through work emails whilst getting your hair done? Or listen to a personal development podcast whilst going for a run? Treat yourself when you have achieved even part of a larger goal. Your present self (and future self) will thank you.
This may seem obvious but can be harder than you think. We all love to multi task and feel like we are doing a lot at one time. However, the truth is, that you are significantly more productive and efficient with your time if your focus on one thing at a time.
Create a distraction free zone. Put your phone away or turn the notifications off or to silent. Steer clear of TV or any other possible interruption. Attempting to multi task just drags out the process of any activity. Stick to one thing at a time.
Having multiple tasks only half done, can deprive us of the sense of completion and achievement that we crave. Always be sure to wrap one thing up before moving onto the next.
Procrastination as a Symptom
If procrastination is new to you, it is possibly a sign of something more. If you suffer from anxiety or depression, it is likely you will postpone items on your to-do list and feel unmotivated.
My best advice here is to seek help in that area first.
Last but not least, have you considered that maybe you are just feeling a little exhausted? That you can’t think straight and cannot complete your tasks because you are just tired.
Take a look at your life, it is important to remember self-care. Are you lacking sleep due to a mind that won’t switch off? Or you have focused at work all day and have forgotten to eat or drink sufficient water.
My favorite concept is something called: Taking time to sharpen the saw. It comes from Stephen Coveys very famous personal development book: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The story he uses is along these lines; a man comes across another man chopping down a tree in the woods. He has been at it for hours but he is not making much progress. The first man suggests to the second, ‘why don’t you stop and sharpen your saw?’ and the second responds: ‘I don’t have time, I have to cut this tree down.”
This is so ridiculous, as if he had stopped and sharpened his saw, then he would’ve been able to cut the tree down much quicker. He would have actually saved time.
We often get so caught up in our busy lives that we forget to sharpen our own saw, to nourish our bodies. To exercise or to get adequate rest. To take time for recreation and enjoyment. The next time you feel the tendrils of procrastination consuming you. Consider whether you simply need to sharpen the saw first.
Create A Habit
All these tips may help you beat procrastination once, but we can create habits that beat postponing and delaying important tasks for good.
Let’s keep it simple, at the end (or beginning) of each day: Create a list of the five most important tasks that must be completed that day. Work until Number one is completed, then solely focus on number two and so on. Repeat daily. It is simple, but that’s what makes it effective.
It is a powerful effective habit, as it forces us to determine the most important things, to single task for each of the activities and gives us a deadline. There is also gratification as you complete the final task each day.
I hope this guide on procrastination and how to stop procrastinating has helped you.
- What tips do you have that are tried and tested for stopping procrastination?
- What are you postponing in life right now?
- Which one of these types of procrastination do you struggle with most in your opinion?
Love and Light