What is procrastination?
Procrastination is the process of avoiding vital important tasks or chores by occupying yourself with something comfortable and easy. We fear the distress and stress, or difficulty associated, so we distract ourselves with something that will give us instant satisfaction, for example watching TV or scrolling through our phones. The constant short term satisfaction takes priority over the long-term satisfaction of accomplishing what it is we need to do.
Before learning how to overcome procrastination, you should first have a grasp on why it is you procrastinate in the first place. We all procrastinate for different reasons. Your procrastination could be an extension of your fear of failure, so avoiding the task all together eliminates that anxiety. You could be a perfectionist, so big projects impose the anxiety of not achieving the impossible standard you’ve set for yourself. Perhaps you’re easily overwhelmed – so you tend to inflate and exaggerate the effort and difficulty associated with a task and therefore dismiss it entirely. Whatever the reason(s), try to establish what it is that causes you to procrastinate. Write it down. This will help you navigate what strategies will and will not be effective and helping you overcome it.
Here are some techniques that could help you get going…
- Set a short time frame
A technique often suggested by psychologists, is to dedicate a very small time frame towards achieving a task every day. Now, depending on how skilled you are at avoiding life’s responsibilities, then the time frame may vary. Keep it to under an hour. Chose 15, 20 or 30 minutes – whatever seems manageable to you. You set a timer and work on that task exclusively within the allocated time frame. Then promise yourself that when the timer goes off – you’re allowed to stop. This shifts the anxiety of approaching a large task for hours on end to the comfort of knowing you’ll have achieved a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment in accordance to the exercise as opposed to the task.
- Jumpstart your motivation
Start small achievable goals for the day that you know you will succeed at and will instantly reward you. For example, tidy up the house, or unload the dishwasher and maybe take the dog for a walk. You’ll feel a small sense of accomplishment for doing things you normally avoid. This can kick start your motivation and give you the courage to overcome that mental roadblock to start working.
- Take on Nikes approach and just do it
Sometimes you just must face your fears and go for it. Stat somewhere, anywhere. Start with the easiest, most approachable and least daunting sector of your task. You’ll immediately feel that sense of accomplishment for getting started and that positive rush usually gets the momentum going.
- Change your environment
If it’s in your nature to be easily distracted – then changing your environment will make it more difficult for you to avoid, daydream and aimlessly wonder. If you lack self-control, then doing this will restrain you from being able to stray off task. For example, go to a public library, you’ll find that you start approaching the job at hand because there are fewer temptations.
- Set a date
Set yourself a time and stick to it – approach it as you would be going to work, or meeting up with a friend. Even leave the house and go to another location so you mentally approach the completion of that task as you would an actual event. When you mentally dedicate yourself to an activity in that manner, your much less likely to disappoint yourself and avoid it.
- Stop lying to yourself
Don’t tell yourself you’ll do it tomorrow, or you’ll do it tonight. Because it’s almost certain that if you’re able to complete the task at the precise moment you’re telling yourself you’ll do it later – that you just won’t. Learn to discipline and self-regulate your thoughts and behaviours. Don’t allow yourself to accept and validate the cyclical nature of these thoughts – that you know are just excuses.