Defeating procrastination is easier said than done. When you’re feeling unmotivated, here are some practical tips that you can implement immediately.
Determine how much time a task will take to accomplish. Don’t fool yourself into thinking a job will take less time than is realistic to expect, and don’t try to trick yourself into thinking you can multitask during this time slot; that will drag out your work and interfere with your time frame. Just determine the exact duration of each task, accounting for a few minutes more. Knowing that a job has a finite period can provide relief from anxiety and burnout.
Distract yourself to a certain point. While multitasking is usually not productive, sometimes the issue is merely getting started. You can trick your brain into finding the motivation to take that initial step if you negotiate a tradeoff, a practice known as “temptation bundling,” a term coined by information management researcher Katherine Milkman. For example, you may give in partially to your desire to watch your favorite TV show if it means you’ll simultaneously take the first step towards completing a task while you have the TV on in the background. As you get more absorbed in the task at hand, you can minimize distractions and feel secure in the knowledge that you at least got started.
Be aware of the fan effect, which occurs when you have too many things to keep track of, resulting in chaos and then procrastination. The longer you procrastinate, the more vicious the cycle becomes. One solution to the fan effect is organization. Give a name to the source of your anxiety by writing down your tasks in a to-do list format. Then, prioritize those functions based on time, starting with the more extended and complicated ones.
Break up larger tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks. Chunking is a technique that works wonders for initiating a project and following through. You can also take pride in the milestones you’ve achieved along the way, instead of feeling guilty about the task not yet finished. Instead, reorient your thinking and redefine success to mean the completion of a manageable sub-task. Merely the physical act of crossing sub-tasks off a list is mentally relieving and a good exercise that will keep you motivated.
Don’t feed your procrastination with excessive preparation. Recognize that those who are prone to procrastination may also be more prone to actively seeking out distractions. You may be tempted to believe that accomplishing a task involves planning, list-making, calendaring, and writing down every little detail. While useful to some extent, these activities may be merely functioning to help you unconsciously escape your fears. Moreover, excessive preparation can exhaust you and use up the internal resources more productively directed at the task at hand.
Meditate on your fears. Associated feelings of fear and anxiety can prevent you from making that initial first step towards the completion of your task. Instead of engaging in distractions that facilitate escapism from your worries, practice openly accepting and meditating on your fears. Plan to set aside one full minute to clear your mind completely, quietly allowing and observing negative feelings, such as burnout, anxiety, guilt or worry. Relax, and then, once your minute is up, calmly direct your focus to your task. The goal is to raise your comfort level to the point that taking the first step is more achievable.
If all else fails, just get to it. No matter what your mind says or how your body feels, just pick yourself up and force yourself to perform the task at the moment. This technique may involve getting up and placing one foot after another as you walk to the laundry room to fold your clothes, for example. Often, the worry and pain associated with procrastination are more intense than those same feelings as they relate to the action itself.
Procrastinators often seek to minimize their anxiety via distractions and delays. If you find yourself unconsciously manufacturing these distractions for yourself, consider that the root of procrastination is anxiety. Implement the above tips to overcome anxiety and to enjoy a productive approach to task completion.
What do you think of these solutions? Or better yet, what are the solutions you have found to deal with your own procrastination? Let me know in the comments below.