6 Tips on How to Stop Procrastinating for Good
Did you finish your to-do list for the day? Many of us don’t. It’s not because the list was too long. It’ because you texted a friend you didn’t see in a long time, watched a documentary about tourism in Peru, picked a new color for your crib – did anything except work.
One lost day is not a big deal. But if those days amount to a hundred, you get squashed by your procrastination.
This is how you break the vicious circle.
1. Learn What Procrastination is
Some people procrastinate more than others, but in the end, we all are procrastinators to a degree. This Harvard Business Review article says that procrastination is a bug in our nervous system.
Our brain has trouble doing the boring stuff that needs to be done for long-term benefits. Our limbic system would rather have us do something joyful right now than something frustrating that would make us happy later on.
So, instead of working hard for your future happiness, you get a bit of fun today and wreck your career. What can be more ironic than that? The fact that the science behind procrastination is pretty clear for people feeling bad after procrastination.
Many people feel inferior or otherwise hate themselves for procrastinating. They work longer hours to be able to complete tasks they shirked during the day, thus ending up having less free time. Less free time means less time for your friends and family and less overall happiness. Some people can’t break this vicious circle for years.
2. Learn Your Why
While the science of procrastination paints the picture with a broad brush, many procrastinators have their own reasons to do so.
For instance, this letter from a reader gives you significant insight into the mind of a procrastinator. This man believes he’s procrastinating largely because he could do most tasks well as a kid, and grew too proud of it. As the tasks expected of him became harder and harder, he had to make an effort to excel. This caused frustration and he procrastinated.
Does this sound like you? If it doesn’t, ask yourself why do you procrastinate. Learning the reason behind it may give you the power to overcome it.
3. Forgive Yourself
For many, procrastination is closely tied with perfectionism. They’re frustrated by the possibility of failure and put the task off. If you want to become magically productive in a day after decades of procrastination, guess what you’ll do. You’ll procrastinate.
This is why it’s crucial to forgive yourself. You don’t have to be perfect. You can’t be perfect dealing with procrastination either. You will have relapses from time to time, and that’s okay.
Don’t let failure ruin you.
4. Make the Process Fun
Wait, what? How can my office job be fun? The thing is, there’s something to like about most tasks. For example, you can put in a good day’s work to render your clients’ lives happier, or just make it through the day to be able to put another $100 in your kid’s college fund. Either way, you can find your daily motivation.
You can’t procrastinate less if you make your work a habit. It’s the boredom of the habit that you’re trying to escape after all.
If you procrastinate because your task at hand doesn’t feel interesting, you have to start liking it. That is if you want to get new skills and get on with your career.
There is another way of doing it except feeling like you’re making the world a better place for your family or for others. It’s called the flow state.
It’s a state of full concentration on one task that makes you super productive. It makes you feel good as well.
You may have experienced it or something similar while playing a sport or doing art. You’re fully immersed, and you don’t even notice time flying by.
Get into this state more often, and you may make work your drug, not Twitter.
5. Manage Your Time
You can’t work for 12 hours straight with no distractions unless you are made of steel. This means you need to keep your brain engaged. If it becomes too boring, you may relapse back into procrastination.
Use a time tracking app, or the Pomodoro technique to work more productively. There are different systems for tracking time, but the essence is the same everywhere. You work for some time and rest for some time.
Get up and walk around the office, eat an apple, or check your Twitter. Just be sure to get back to work once the app tells you your time’s up.
Make this your habit, and you’ll find yourself craving to go back to work.
6. Work on Long-Term Thinking
Did you notice that we didn’t address the elephant in the room about procrastination being the ultimate undoer of long-term benefits? Why didn’t we bring it up yet?
The thing is, if you want to buy a home in 20 years, you can break this goal into smaller goals. You can break it down to a point where you know that each task you do during the day is one small step towards the purchase.
Does this make your work less daunting? Not really. Does it make it easier to make the first step when you know there are half a million of these steps ahead? Probably not. Does it work for more than a couple of months? Not for everyone.
The bottom line is – you should work on your long term goals. But if you follow the Pareto principle and focus on the daily grind first, you’ll have an easier time fighting procrastination.