Reading Length: 6 minutes
Have you been struggling with procrastination? Have you been doing things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums? We tend to do it because of short-term gratification but it can lead to negative consequences on our physical and mental health.
Procrastination is selecting short-term benefits over long-term benefits. It is a habit and lack of awareness of time. Don’t let procrastination control your life. Here are 20 ways to stop procrastinating and be more productive:
- Acknowledge that you’re procrastinating.
Some ways you may be procrastinating are doing low-priority tasks instead, postponing an item on your to-do list for a long time, reading emails, jumping from a high-priority task to a distraction, and waiting to be in the “right mood” to do something.
- Ask yourself why you’re procrastinating.
Do you avoid a task because you find it boring or unpleasant? Is it because of organizational issues, poor decision making, fear of success, fear of failure or because you’re a perfectionist? Identify the problem first in order to find a solution.
- Organize and plan your tasks.
Some strategies are to keep a to-do list, utilize the Eisenhower Urgent/Important Principle, and tackle the difficult tasks during your peak times.
- Start early morning.
You tend to be more refreshed and focused in the morning which can make it easier to start the important tasks first. Once you get the important task done first, it makes the rest of the day more enjoyable.
- Take advantage of activation energy.
Set a timer for a short period of time but just enough time for you to get a task done. During that time, close all distractions, set your phone to “do not disturb,” and commit to the task at hand. The concept of activation energy is you’re more likely to continue something when it’s started.
- Eliminate distractions.
Technology is a great distraction. Aim for digital minimalism. Avoid distractions like social media, emails and television. Identify browser bookmarks you spend more time on and disable automatic email notifications. Don’t multi-task as well. It interferes with your focus and does nothing for productivity.
- Take breaks.
Schedule shorter chunks for focused work. Avoid making focused sessions too long on your calendar. Work in 90 minute intervals and take a short 2 to 5 minute break after each focus session. During your break, you can listen to music, take a walk, or just close and relax your eyes.
- Break down big tasks to smaller tasks.
The pile of work can look overwhelming at first. Break down the big projects into specific smaller tasks for your to-do list. This makes you realize it isn’t as bad as it looks and gives your brain clearer directions to follow which will encourage you to take action. We tend to procrastinate by jumping into emails and messages because it is easy. By breaking down the big tasks, you’re making it easier to take action and mangeable.
- Set a deadline for yourself.
This encourages things to get done ahead of time and provides the ability to schedule more things with a realistic schedule. You can also use time-management apps such as Trello or Troggl.
- Set cues and change your environment.
Set a cue by pairing a desirable action with your intended task. For example, doing meditation after your alarm rings. Change your room environment by going to the library. Or change your alarm ring tone. The brain can be used to an environment which leads to procrastination. A messy or disorganized environment can also affect your productivity.
- Reward yourself.
Putting off something already feels like a reward but eventually leads to guilt or stress. Bribe yourself with other rewards throughout your progress towards your goals. Some rewards are like treating yourself to coffee every 5,000 words you write, allowing yourself to watch Netflix after completing a paper, or partying after finishing a 30 page report.
- Trick yourself by falling in love with what you do.
Don’t treat the task as a chore and associate it as a hobby or passion. Passion is the best motivator against procrastination. Remind yourself of your passion and curiosity towards the task you’re doing. Change your internal dialogue to “I choose to” instead of “have to.” This makes you feel more in control.
- Get help from others.
If you feel the task is not worth your time, you can find someone on TaskRabbit or Nextdoor to help complete your task or even just starting the project. Another way is to have an accountability partner or group. You can even put money or a valuable item on the line such as by signing up for a class or hiring a personal coach without a refund option to make sure you stick with your goal. If you don’t, then you lose it. If you’re relying on yourself, then you can use an online tool called Procraster. You can also find people who have already achieved your goals.
- Tell everyone about your goals.
Studies have shown that people are more likely to follow through their goals when they tell others about it. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your goals.
- Time block your important work.
You don’t know in advanced if you will feel creative or motivated to do a task beforehand. Write down what you need to complete. Schedule and block in time to get important work finished. You don’t have to assign a specific task but you can just name it “proactive time.” Schedule similar tasks together so it gives you more free time for your important work.
- Use the Seinfeld Method.
This is a great anti-procrastination strategy which aims at consistency. You can use a calendar, notebook or journal. You can treat it like a game and the key is to keep a streak. To do this: 1) Draw out a grid. 2) Label the first column “date.” 3) Put the second column a task you plan to do everyday. 4) After completing the task, check it off.
- Acknowledge your mood at the moment.
See how you’re feeling in the present and look at what you can tackle on your to-do list based on your mood. You can re-direct your procrastination on one thing by figuring out what else you have to do. Or you can re-direct by engaging in hobbies or interests that support your primary work.
- Reflect on your goals.
Sometimes there could be a misalignment of goals or we have outgrown the goals. Take some time off to ask yourself: “What exactly do I want to achieve? What should you I to get there? What are the steps to take? Does my current work align with that? If not, what can I do about it?”
- Forgive yourself.
Studies have shown that self-forgiveness can increase positive feelings and encourage less procrastination in the future. Change your negative self-talk by replacing it with realistic thoughts. For example, instead of saying ““Why can’t I just get it together and get things done like everyone else?!” say “I am struggling with procrastination right now, but I’m also taking proactive steps to work on it.” Allow yourself a short amount of time for procrastination such as 10 minutes.
- Be more mindful.
Mindfulness is the habit of paying attention without thinking which direct our actions towards values rather than our feelings. Cultivate mindfulness by spending a few minutes doing mindful meditation. If it sounds too spiritual to you, then you can simply engage in ordinary mindfulness by shifting focus on engaging in good work rather than feelings.
Check out this video I made on overcoming procrastination! Please like, comment and subscribe!
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