8 Tips for Beating Procrastination

8 Tips for Beating Procrastination

July 20, 2020

"It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome." - William James

 

“My advice is to never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time.” - Charles Dickens

 

We’ve all been guilty of it. You know, when you find yourself doing anything BUT what you know you really need to do. Like cleaning out a drawer or deleting apps off your phone when you know you have a pressing deadline or a task you really need to start. Whether it’s revision for exams when in school, starting your dissertation at university, or beginning that project at work or at home, procrastination often seems to be productivity’s worst enemy. Once we begin we wonder why it took us so long and often the hardest part is just getting started.

For most people, a tendency to procrastinate a little is a mild annoyance, a bad habit we recognise in ourselves, perhaps leading to feelings of guilt and frustration. And whilst we vow to try to do it less, it doesn’t seem like a major problem. For others, procrastination can be a serious hinderance to moving forward with our work or our plans, leading to us under-achieving and missing out on our goals. Either way, understanding what causes procrastination, identifying when we procrastinate (and why) and then taking steps to combat it can do wonders for our productivity and mentality alike.

It’s definitely worth starting by saying that for some, severe procrastination can be a sign of a more serious underlying health problems; part of or contributing to issues such as ADHD, OCD, depression or anxiety. In such a case it is would be best dealt with by seeking professional help.

So what is procrastination? Well it’s actively doing something in order to avoid doing something else. This is not to be confused with laziness which is essentially choosing not to do anything - an unwillingness to act.

Before we look at tips to beat procrastination, it’s important to recognise the signs. Well, when you find yourself carrying out all your low priority tasks first, to the point that your main priority gets bumped (sometimes continuously) to the next day... you’re procrastinating. When you find yourself jumping at the chance to help others with some tasks rather than doing your own; waiting for the ‘right time’ to start a task, or feeling a sudden urge to make another coffee just as you start thinking of your priority…you’re just procrastinating.

Once you’ve established you are indeed actively putting off your task, it’s worth thinking about why. Common reasons are that a task is unpleasant or scary; that we feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start; that we are too indecisive and second-guessing ourselves about doing the task, or perhaps we are just so badly organised that we always seem to have too much else to do.

Whatever the reason, here are 8 tips you can implement to help beat procrastination. Some will be more appropriate than others for certain tasks, depending on the size and duration.

1. Just start it - in any place, in any way. Starting can often be the hardest part, but it’s scientifically proven that once you start something and don’t finish, it’s much easier to go back to it and complete it, because it’s stuck in your mind. It’s Called the Zeigarnick Effect. Don’t know where to start? Pick the easiest part of the task to begin with and just start there.
  
2. Don’t beat yourself up about procrastinating in the past. It happens, and the more you stress about it, the more likely that will cause you to procrastinate more. Give yourself a break and just commit to trying to improve going forwards.
  
3. Commit to the task at hand. Write it down and set a deadline for completing it. Our planners provide plenty of places to map out larger goals, schedule in smaller tasks, as well as highlighting your daily priorities.
  
4. Break it down. If it seems overwhelming, you need to break it down into smaller, more manageable chunks with milestones. Once you’ve done that, start on the one that makes the most sense, or on the easiest one - like in tip 1.
  
5. Get an accountability partner who will help to keep you on track and who you can turn to if you find yourself procrastinating. This could be a friend, a loved one, a colleague or if you’re really serious, a coach.
  
6. Promise yourself a reward when you achieve your goal or reach certain milestones on the path to a bigger goal. Incentives work so why not use the opportunity to treat yourself?
  
7. Minimise distractions. We live in the age of ultimate distraction, and at no point are we more easily distracted than when we are in the midst of procrastination - cut them out! That may mean putting your phone in a different room, closing your email down entirely or finding a more peaceful workspace. All of these things can help you focus, get you started and allow you to make real progress.
  
8. Find your ‘why’. Why are you actually going to carry out this task? What will you get from it? Write it down - in your planner, your journal, or even on a sticky note where you will see it. By focusing on your ‘why’, rather than on the difficulties involved, or the other things you could be doing, you can find the extra motivation to get started.

 

So next time you’re going to start a priority task or a new project, keep an eye out for those tell-tale signs of procrastination. If you find your self slipping into it, try to think about why and then put some of these tips into action to see what works for you.



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