In the last 24 hours, how many times have you said to yourself, ” I will do it later” or something similar to that? I’m pretty sure the number is more than a couple of times. WE are all guilty of procrastination. Every one of us is procrastinating on something, a phone call, an assignment, a meeting, a blog, etc. According to researcher and speaker Piers Steel, 95% of us procrastinate on something to some extent. (*) But to be more productive, you need to get things done within time or even earlier. So here are 15 tips for overcoming procrastination right now.
What is procrastination?
Procrastination is the action of delaying or postponing something for the latter. The word was originated from the Latin word “Procrastinatus.” Procrastination is regarded as a negative trait because it hinders a person from doing what needs to be done at that certain time.
The mind always favors instant gratification rather than logical reasoning. But this conflict between rational thinking and instant gratification usually ends up in the latter’s favor, leading us to procrastination.
Why do we procrastinate?
We all know we shouldn’t be procrastinating. Then why do we do it? WE should be able to resist it, but we don’t. Here are some of the top reasons for procrastination.
Instant gratification: As stated earlier, our mind loves the idea of instant rewards. It does not want to think of the big picture, the past and the future. So whenever it sniffs out any instant rewards, it inclines towards it. This leaves little or no time for things that matter, which ultimately leads to procrastination.
Fear: We don’t always leave a task incomplete because it is fun and easy. But sometimes, it is because of fear.
Suppose you have to call your boss and tell him that you would want a vacation. You are afraid of how your boss will react to this proposal, so you leave the task for later.
Overwhelming tasks: Some tasks might be overwhelming when you look at them. It feels impossible to complete these, so your mind loses the. Motivation to even try. Hence leading you to procrastinate on the more significant, complicated tasks.
Distraction: Many times, procrastination can begin with a simple distraction. A slight nudge is all it takes to distract you from deep work and lead you to scroll social media.
Excuses: We are always looking for an excuse not to start a task. People can come up with hundreds of excuses not to do a task if they want to. They may even blame their surroundings to life the burden from themselves.
Now We know the causes of procrastination. Here are 9 tips on overcoming procrastination.
A Distinct To-do List:
We all make a to-do list in our everyday life to remember the tasks that we have to do for the day. But most to-do list looks like this:
- Write blog
- Start studying
- Visit mother
- Call grandpa
You might be wondering what is wrong with that to-do list. This to-do list lacks clarity. Although it mentions the tasks that need to be done, it is not distinct enough. When you create a hazy to-do list, your day is going to be hazy too.
Clarity will help you to know what you should do precisely and at which exact time. It will guide you through initiating the tasks at a specifically assigned time of the day. Here is how an ideal To-do list should look like.
- Write a blog on ” Overcoming procrastination” in the morning (10.00 am)
- Start studying at 4.30p.m
- Visit mother for dinner at 8.00p.m
- Call Granpa before sleeping at 11.00
This prevents procrastination because all the tasks have been assigned to a certain time. Also, the actions are more precise, so you would know how to initiate the task.
2-minute rule - The Nudge
Productivity guru David Allen states the 2-minute rule in his book “Getting things done.” This rule states that anything that takes less than 2 minutes should be done immediately.
Usually, we procrastinate on the small tasks more, washing dishes, filling up the water bottle, cleaning our desk. All these can be done in 2 minutes. If you set up and remember this rule, you will instantly do these small tasks; whenever you have something small, remember the 2-minute rule and just do it.
5-minute rule - The wheel
Now the 2-minute rule is not applicable for the bigger tasks. That is when the 5-minute rule kicks in. The 5-minute rule states that whenever you are facing friction to start a task, tell yourself you will only do it for 5 minutes.
This rule works because we don’t usually face friction in continuing a task but instead initiating a task. You can compare it to a wheel because a wheel takes some effort to start, but it keeps moving once it starts. So with the 5 – minute rule, you can start any task and continue if you like. You will see that it will be hard to stop doing the task once you start a task.
Eat the frog
This method is from the book “Eat that frog” by Brian Tracy. It means to complete the most complicated task first.
We all are procrastinators to some extent, and no matter how much we try, we will procrastinate on something. So it is better to procrastinate on things that matter less than things that matter most. Eating the frog means completing the tasks that impact our lives the most. It could be anything, depending upon the person you are. We need to grind on the tasks (the frogs), and then we will be free to procrastinate on other things (because we are going to do it anyway).
Ask this question before making your to-do list, and keep the task at top priority.
Reduce Choices :
This is a different concept that is not much discussed. But have you heard about decision fatigue? On average, humans make about 35000 conscious decisions per day.
This constant decision-making leads to poor quality of decisions and making poor life choices.
Now how does that relate to Procrastination? Sometimes people procrastinate because they don’t want to choose. They are afraid to choose between
- to call or to not call,
- to visit your friend or visit your family
- to go to a gym or go to piano class
There are so many important decisions to make every day. These decisions influence our lives. But if we drain our decision-making ability with unimportant decisions, we will be confused while making these important decisions.
It is easy to procrastinate than to decide between two tough choices. So we will tend to procrastinate.
It is important to cut down on the less important decisions of your life to make room for the most important ones.
Break it down into pieces:
As we have mentioned earlier, one of the critical reasons for procrastination is overwhelming tasks. The best way to tackle these tasks is not by delaying them even further but rather by breaking the tasks into equally small pieces.
Our brain does not like too difficult tasks, but it is also applicable for too easy tasks. You should not divide the tasks into tiny segments but rather into medium-sized chunks, which provide a challenge to the brain. That is when your brain would be interested in completing a task and not be overwhelmed as well.
As mentioned earlier in the blog, one of the reasons you are taken away from your schedule is the countless distractions around you. Your phone, notification bells, doorbells, phone calls, annoying neighbors, and more. Now I know you cannot eliminate all the distractions around you (certainly not the nosy neighbor), but you can eliminate some of the distractions near you.
Keep the phone physically away from you while you work or study. This will create friction between you and the phone to prevent you from checking your phone every two minutes. Also, let your household members know your schedule so that they don’t distract you when you get on with your works.
Distractions are just some small cues that can lead you to hours of procrastination – if not careful. Make sure to remove any other diversions like gaming consoles, storybooks, and junk foods to avoid unnecessary break of flow.
Now you know how to eliminate the disturbing elements of the room. Yes, this will prevent you from being lured to procrastination, but you also need to optimize your environment to get started on the task in the first place.
Optimizing the environment means arranging your surroundings according to the work you are going to do. In his best-selling book Atomic Habits, James Clear mentions that we need to make it easier and more accessible to create a good habit. The same notion is applicable for overcoming procrastination.
For example: At night, keep your running shoes and tracksuit near to your bed. So when you wake up, you don’t need to go through the dread of finding your clothes. Just wear them and leave. It would be best if you optimize your environment for every task on which you procrastinate. This simple act is going to help you initiate the tasks that feel dreadful before you begin.
Reward yourself for beating procrastination
Beating procrastination is not an easy task. It requires sheer will and determination to do it. Whenever you feel that you have done a good job and completed a task ahead of schedule, make sure to treat yourself.
For every job well done, reward yourself with guilt-free leisure when you don’t have to worry about deadlines, assignments, and work that you left undone.
People do not like to take the burden of failure. When we are not delaying a job for later, we also come up with silly excuses. We do not like to believe that we are procrastinating.
Being proactive helps us to know our faults and be self-aware. We should know to differentiate between when we are procrastinating and when we have a legit excuse. Taking responsibility for our own faults (and procrastination) helps us to refrain from doing so in the future. Stop blaming anything else for your procrastination and get the work done.
No matter how much you read and learn about procrastination, you will always be guilty of it. So remember, you are not the only one in this vicious cycle. Do not beat yourself up. Procrastination is okay and even helps you to process thoughts in some cases. As long as you get things done, you are doing great.
But remember, if you have to procrastinate on anything, do it on the smaller tasks. Do not procrastinate on jobs that influence the most important things in your life like your career, relationships, health, etc.
Hope this helps. Best of luck in overcoming procrastination.