I’m sure we’ve all had that one task that we just kept putting off and procrastinating until it was impossible to ignore. You spent hours debating doing the task which in the end only took about 5 minutes to complete. Sound familiar? Yeah, same here. Procrastination is the worst, I battle with it every single day.
Over the years, I’ve tried out quite a few tips to try and stop wasting my time procrastinating. Some were more helpful than others. Here are my top 5:
- James Clear, author of ‘Atomic Habits’, recommends making the negative consequence of procrastination more immediate. My current 30 Day Writing Challenge is actually a perfect example – I used to procrastinate writing so much that I would just never do it. By setting this challenge, even just missing one day means I fail the challenge – the consequence of my procrastination is pretty much immediate. I assure you, this works!
- Kelly McGonigal, in her book ‘The Willpower Instinct’, introduces the pause-and-plan response, an alternative to the age-old fight-or-flight response. It’s all about the ability to pause and reflect when we come across internal conflict and make better decisions. Kelly says this, just like a muscle, can be trained but also fatigues throughout the day. So – try doing the tasks you are most conflicted about first thing in the morning and keep practising!
- We all know and love Marie Kondo. As the queen of organisation, she has some really interesting insights into how a clean workspace is the default for a productive day which she explains in her book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’. I’ve experienced this myself, where if my space is really cluttered I feel distracted and uneasy. If cleaning an entire room seems daunting, you could just start with the immediate area around your workspace and go from there.
- Another expert with an excellent book on procrastination is Darius Foroux. I like his insights because he is realistic and addresses procrastination as the serious problem it is in many of our lives rather than putting it down to laziness. He strongly believes in systems to beat procrastination that hold us accountable to do tasks such as deadlines, interval work and having someone that checks in with us.
- Lastly, the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning at Princeton University has also written about this topic. While sometimes universities can give us very textbook definitions (this one is as well – sorry), I do like their viewpoint of finding productive reasons for engaging in tasks. Rather than relying on negative emotions of e.g. fear of failure to get us through tasks, they suggest keeping your goals and dreams in mind as reasons for completing tasks. I like this, because while I know from experience that fear of failure is an excellent motivation, it can also ruin any enjoyment a task may bring. Just because you procrastinate a task, does not mean it has to be a pain to complete – it’s like when I procrastinate exercising and then actually go and feel amazing. I think finding a good balance between this and James/Darius’ idea of immediate consequences is crucial to successfully overcome procrastination – in the sense that you know that there will be consequences if you don’t do a task but that consequence is not the reason why you complete it. Does that make sense?
This is Day 3 of my 30 Day Writing Challenge, I’m glad I’ve made it this far 😉 Let me know what you think of the posts so far and anything you’d be interested in reading about!
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