Are you a procrastinator too? Do you find yourself at the mercy of distractions like social media, the zeitgeist and the never ending list of pop culture items we should be paying attention to? Welcome, my kin. I’m just like you. And I too battle the great beast that is procrastination. Our enemy is sly and insidious but I promise this is a monster that can be slain, one day at a time.
Today I’ll be sharing practical skills that are helping me win the war against procrastination but first, let’s clear up a big misconception:
Procrastination vs Laziness
A lot of procrastinators mistakenly believe that they’re lazy, but there’s actually a difference. Procrastination is an active process, laziness is a passive one. Procrastinators want to get things done but our issues lie in execution and avoidance. Lazy people are unwilling to do what must be done.
Another aspect of procrastination is that it involves a deadline. Procrastinating means delaying the completion of a task that must be done in a certain amount of time. Those deadlines can be official due dates from school or work but they can also be set by you based on your personal goals.
10 Signs of a Procrastinator (based on my own tomfoolery personal experience)
- You do things at the last minute.
- You spend too much time in preparation mode.
- You find yourself feeling overwhelmed.
- You’re disorganised.
- You’re always late.
- You’re easily distracted.
- You burnout.
- You juggle too much at once.
- You experience inconsistent levels of motivation.
- You have many unaccomplished goals.
One more thing!
Procrastination is a habit. Habits are formed through repetition. If you do something continuously for long enough, you train yourself to engage in that behaviour automatically. It starts off like a harmless thing but can quickly spiral into something that stifles your progress and goals.
Oftentimes, we procrastinate because of mental blocks and hindering beliefs. We know we need to work but we’re scared. Maybe of failure. Maybe of the effort required. Maybe you believe that a wizard cursed you and this is your lot in life. Maybe you just don’t think you’re good enough.
You’re wrong. First off, anyone can be “good enough” if they work at it. Secondly, I’m happy to tell you that the lies we tell ourselves to justify and accommodate procrastination are just a frightened mind’s way of shirking responsibility. You can’t feel bad about failing if you never do it, right? You can’t “waste effort” if you never do what you need to, right? Better to believe a wizard is behind all the fear you have named laziness…right?
Wrong. There are lessons in failure that we deprive ourselves of learning when we put off work. If you learn from your mistakes and figure out new ways to grow, there is no such thing as “wasted effort.” And for crying out loud, you are not cursed!
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5 Ways To Beat Procrastination
1. Just start
Nike hit the nail on the head with their slogan, JUST DO IT. If you have been putting off a certain task for a while, the solution is simply to get started. Don’t use preparation as a way to delay and certainly do not wait for inspiration or the mood to hit. The longer you keep that task on your mental to-do list, the more stress you will carry with you and the more you will want to avoid the said task. Get started.
2. Do it often
If you want to beat procrastination, you need to build new habits. Like I said before, habits are formed through repeated actions. You won’t view work as an exhausting task if you do it often. You’ll be programming your mind to accustom itself to being productive and that, in turn, will make avoiding procrastination easier.
3. Stop putting too much on your plate.
Most procrastinators suffer from an overstuffed task list. The number of things we must do to accomplish our goals can start to feel daunting and may contribute to feeling overwhelmed. Know your limits. If there are things you’d like to accomplish that can be done at another time or just aren’t as important as the rest of your tasks, take them off your to do list. Focus on what is most important and stop overwhelming yourself.
4. Use App Blockers
If you find yourself easily distracted by your phones and all those apps that call to you like sirens, use blockers to remove their temptations. Eliminating distractions can be a very effective way to regain your focus. If nothing else, it might at least force you into working because of pure boredom.
5. Make use of effective lists
Pretty obvious, right? Making a list of tasks and carrying them out seems simple enough but how many times have you found yourself forgetting what’s on your list? How often do you end up focusing too much on certain items and then having no time for the ones left? That’s because you’re making ineffective to do lists.
Effective lists are those whose itinerary is specific and time bound. They allocate time periods when tasks should be done and when they should be completed in addition to how they must be done.
6. Prioritise your tasks and group them according to difficulty
If you find yourself procrastinating from work with other kinds of work, arrange your tasks according to what needs to be accomplished first. After that, order your tasks based on what is easiest to accomplish and tackle them. If you start with difficult tasks, you’re likely to become discouraged or frustrated which can lead to feeling overwhelmed. Ticking off the easiest parts of your to do list will ease you into the more challenging work and build endurance for tasks that require more effort.
7. Time block
Got your tasks prioritised? Great. Now it’s time to dedicate specific periods or “blocks” to accomplish those tasks. This is known as time blocking. It’s a great technique for effective scheduling and keeping up with your to do list.
8. Be flexible
Frequently, we find ourselves in situations where a task becomes more important than others or we have to get something new done that supersedes the rest. In these times, it’s important to be flexible and adjust your to-do list. If that means temporarily removing some things from your set of tasks then, by all means, remove them. Don’t overburden yourself with objectives. Re-prioritise and move forward accordingly.
9. Take breaks
Overworking yourself is one of the easiest ways to fall into procrastination. If you work too much at once (perhaps because you left things until the last minute), you program your mind into thinking work is painful and stressful. That’s why we try to avoid doing it again until we absolutely have to. Taking regular breaks helps us recuperate and mend before getting back to the grind. It helps to keep you balanced.
10. Reward yourself
Pat yourself on the back whenever you exercise the discipline not to succumb to procrastination. Get your favourite take out, watch a movie and pig out, grab a drink with a friend via video chat, kill people in a video game. Whatever your joys are, enjoy them as a way of telling yourself, “Job well done!”
If I can do it then you definitely can too! I was a chronic procrastinator for a long time and I’m still at the start of my journey back to productivity. It’s not as challenging as you might think and if you give yourself the grace of another chance, you’ll see the fruits of your efforts in no time. If you fail today, try again tomorrow. If you fail tomorrow, fail better. Then start again. Just start.