Written by Rebecca Vogelpohl
Procrastination — We are all guilty of it. Whether we’re dodging chores at home, avoiding tasks at work, putting off studying or completing that essay for school or sidestepping something else in our lives, even the best of us procrastinate sometimes. We get distracted by the vast world of information around us, busying ourselves with checking emails, scanning social media sites, reading blogs and web pages that we enjoy. We say things like “I will do ______ once I finish the next chapter of this book” or that we will start working on ______ after we “watch one more episode.”
But we all know how that ends — we just put doing ______ off even further.
So what, you say? You’ll get to it eventually, right?
Not at this rate. Regardless, your procrastination does cause unnecessary problems for you, and we’re here to tell you about them and about strategies for kicking procrastination to the curb – or at least knock it down a peg or two – once and for all.
When you procrastinate, your to-do list becomes repetitive. Every day you start with new items on the list, but those that you haven’t completed seem to make their way back, again and again. You begin to dread them and the thought of starting your work on them is just as daunting as completing them.
“Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.” – Mark Twain
Procrastination can be defined as the action of delaying or postponing something. It is the period of time between when one intends to start something and when they actually do it.
There are many different theories for why people procrastinate. Are people lazy? Are they fearful? Do they not know how to manage their time? Do they simply not care?
While the causes and reasons for procrastinating vary as much from person to person as they do from situation to situation, there are some definitive, helpful ways to overcome them once and for all:
- Create a To-Do List- Prioritize your items. Although you may want to accomplish the easy tasks first, resist that temptation! If you work on the most daunting and difficult tasks first, you will feel less overwhelmed. Through what medium you create and use your lists doesn’t matter. Keep your life in order the old fashioned way by creating lists on paper, or take advantage of technology , apps and programs by managing your lists on your computer, tablet or smartphone.
- Break Large Projects Down into Smaller Tasks- If you are overwhelmed by the entirety of a project or task, break it down into smaller pieces and work your way through completing them one by one.
- Stop Waiting for the ‘Right Mood’ or ‘Perfect Moment’- There is no such thing. You’ll be waiting forever. If you wait for the mood to strike, you will never get started, not to mention the fact that you’ll never learn how to be more disciplined.
- Learn the Difference between ‘Urgent’ and ‘Important’- ‘Urgent’ means that something requires immediate action or attention, while ‘important’ means something is of significance or value or is likely to have a profound effect on someone’s or something’s success, survival or well-being. Learn more about this concept here.
- Forget Perfectionism- Not everything you do will be the best. Do you skip writing a first draft and expect a literary masterpiece? No. Start somewhere, and tailor it later.
- Be Mindful of the 80/20 rule- Perry Marshall, a well-known author and online advertising consultant, supports following this rule, which states that 80% of sales come from 20% of your customers. Furthermore, he states, “20% of your activities that produce 80% of your result are the same things that trigger you to procrastinate.”
- Create a ‘Soft’ Deadline- This strategy allows flexibility in a similar way to breaking projects down into smaller tasks. By creating a “soft” deadline that precedes the official, “hard” deadline for getting something accomplished, you allow yourself time to troubleshoot when coming up against unexpected difficulties and time to ensure that you did the job correctly and thoroughly before the project is actually due. More information on this idea can be found here.
- Follow the 5-Minute Rule- This is one of my personal favorites. According to licensed clinical psychologist Andrea Bonior, the 5-Minute Rule follows cognitive behaviors and suggests that in order to help with procrastination, work on a task for only five minutes. Most of us think, “what could I even get done in just five minutes,” but the results will astound you. Often times, just finding the motivation to start is the biggest roadblock with regards to procrastination. Committing to a mere five minutes makes the obstacle more easily surmountable.
- Use an Application or Timer to Set Internet Boundaries- Fred Stutzman, a technology researcher and designer, created an application for the computer that blocks a person from accessing the internet for a set period of time, which helps to prevent distractions and procrastination. This application, called ‘Freedom,’ became a huge success. More information about the application and other tips can be found in this article.
- Finish What You Started! – It sounds simple enough, but when we do not finish what we are working on, it contributes to feeling greater stress over completing the task. Sometimes you may not be able to finish the entire task that day, but make sure to set smaller goals and reach those. This will help make the big picture seem less daunting.
“Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do, it comes from not finishing what they started.”- David Allen.
We will never be completely free from distraction and procrastination, but we’ve found that putting some of these tips into practice will help you get those pesky tasks done and be more successful. Thanks for reading!