In our last post, we dwelt at length on what procrastination is and also explored some of the causes of this habit. It is important to note here that procrastination differs from being lazy since being lazy has more to do with apathy while procrastination may entail choosing to do something else instead of doing what you logically ought to do at that moment. Let us now turn to some of the practical steps that you can take to overcome procrastination.
1. Know Why You Procrastinate
“Know thy enemy” is the first principle of any war. In the same way, the first thing you need to do is to identify why you procrastinate. The specific remedial steps that you take may vary depending on the underlying cause that you isolate.
For example, someone who procrastinates because a task looks too big for them to accomplish may need a different solution when compared to another who procrastinates because they are distracted. Breaking a task into smaller segments can help the first person while this option will not produce any results for the second person who is distracted.
2. Banish Excuses
You can either get things done or come up with excuses, but not both. If you are in the habit of procrastinating, you may have caught yourself saying you aren’t in the mood to do something, or you still have time, or you work best while under pressure, or any other excuse to wiggle out of doing what you know you should be doing.
Beat procrastination by shifting your mind away from giving excuses to getting things done. When you channel your energy in this way, you will have less room for procrastination since you will have broken one of the mental anchors upon which it relies to rear its ugly head.
3. Redesign Your Environment
This has also been called designing the future because you do things now that will safeguard you from procrastinating later. For example, your phone may be distracting you from getting tasks completed. Rather than turn it off and leave it on your table, it is far better to keep it away from the room in which you are working since research shows that having the phone within sight, even if it is switched off, is enough to reduce your productivity by about 20%. Putting the phone in silent mode and leaving it in another room therefore frees you to work at your best level of productivity. You can also block social media on your computer or do anything else that will keep distractions at bay.
4. Use Your Peak Times
It is also helpful to know when you are at your best so that you can schedule the most difficult tasks during those times. For example, many people feel tired in the afternoons, and that makes the afternoon a bad time to schedule an unpleasant or difficult task. Such a task is more likely to be postponed on the basis of any excuse that the person may find.
It is therefore better to schedule difficult, challenging or unpleasant tasks first thing in the morning so that you get them out of the way. Brian Tracy calls it eating your frog first before you do anything else.
5. Make Tasks More Achievable
Nothing gives momentum and motivation to keep going than when you tick off one completed task after another. You can use this same concept to beat procrastination by breaking down a big task into bite-size segments that you can complete easily.
When you do that, you will stop looking at the task as one which is hard to accomplish and you will tackle it with the confidence that you can get it done.
For example, not many people can confidently say that they can write an entire book in one month. However, if you ask whether they can write one chapter every two days, then almost everyone will answer in the affirmative.
The shift in focus from looking at an entire book to focusing on one chapter at a time helps you to build up momentum and kick procrastination to the curb.
6. Temptation Bundling
Put simply, temptation bundling refers to doing an activity you don’t particularly like while doing another activity that you like. The idea behind this approach is that what you like helps to take away some of the unpleasantness of the activity that you keep postponing.
For instance, you may have a favorite weekly show that you never miss on television and you may also have a task you dislike and yet it has to be done on a weekly basis (ironing your clothes, for example).
In such a case, you can use temptation bundling to set yourself a goal of only watching that weekly TV program while ironing your clothes. In this way, you will no longer put off ironing since it will have a dedicated time within which you will do it.
Temptation bundling can be applied in different ways, so look at what you love doing and what you keep postponing. Thereafter, come up with a way to pair those two sets of activities.
7. Make the Risks of Procrastination Come Sooner
Psychologists say that we are primarily wired to value immediate rewards as opposed to waiting for long-term rewards. This may be why most people may select a smaller reward given to them now rather than waiting for a bigger reward that will come years later.
So, should we fold our arms and surrender to the inevitability of procrastination? Certainly not. We humans have evolved to a level where we can modify or tame our instincts, and procrastination is no different.
In that regard, we need to make the results of procrastinating more immediate. For example, you may not immediately suffer the consequences of unhealthy dietary choices since poor health comes several years or decades later. However, when you make it a habit to have a healthy dinner every day with a close friend, you will feel rotten if you have something unhealthy as dessert after your meal with the friend.
Similarly, setting weekly goals and telling your coach about them will make the consequences more immediate if the coach checks in and finds that you haven’t followed through on what was agreed.
There are almost as many solutions to procrastination as there are people who procrastinate (all of us do, to some degree!). The important thing is to acknowledge that you procrastinate and then start taking the measures above to free yourself from the habit.
As already indicated, there are so many possible steps to ending procrastination that we couldn’t capture them all in this short blog post, so share what solutions have worked for you in the comments below!
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