Are you someone who enjoys being productive, who likes to see things moving, and who gets enormous self-satisfaction by getting things done? Or, does procrastination prevent your success?
Procrastination prevents productivity.
Do you have difficulty in starting to work on an important task or a project? You keep postponing, thinking that you should start, but still you do not feel motivated to get moving. Hours, days, or weeks are passing until your internal pressure goes to the top (or the deadline is tomorrow) and you finally do it. You feel relieved that it has been done (usually quite fast), but deep inside you know that you would have saved a lot of mental energy if you started slightly earlier.
If you are someone who needs to feel productive, efficient and getting things done, the best gift you can give yourself is to learn how to quickly get moving even if you don’t feel like starting. It might not be easy at the beginning. Any behavioral change requires a lot of focus, self-awareness, and self-management. But the end is very rewarding. You will waste less time, avoid procrastination, feel more productive, deliver better results, and start enjoying things that you were procrastinating on.
In a popular TED talk “Inside the mind of a master procrastinator,” Ted Urban says that we like to do things that are fun and easy. So, we naturally tend to avoid, procrastinate, and postpone things that are not fun or easy. However, our life is not about doing things that are easy and fun. Have you tried watching movies or playing computer games the whole day? Would you truly like to be on holidays forever?
Our life is about doing things that are meaningful, that have a positive impact on our life and the life of other people. We all have a basic need to accomplish great things. We need to be proud of ourselves and see that we have made a difference to the world. Choosing to do only easy and fun things and postpone the rest will not make us happy. But doing challenging and boring things can make us unhappy too. How to cope with this conflict?
What if we decide not to choose WHAT to do, but HOW to do it?
Instead of procrastinating on something that is not easy or fun, what if we try to figure out how to make each task easy or fun? Making each step simple to do, simple to remember, or just simple in our mind. Creating more fun in everything we do, making it a game or playing with our attitude.
I am sure that you already have a couple of ideas how you could cope with your individual challenges, but here are six specific ideas how you can get yourself started.
1. Decide and act against procrastination.
The reason we experience procrastination on some things is that we have not fully decided whether or not to do them. There is an internal conflict. We have hundreds of reasons why we should start working on that presentation, but we have also hundreds of reasons why we “cannot” start working on the presentation.
Every time you catch yourselves in procrastination, you need to make a conscious decision: do I really have to do it? Do I really want to do it? The decision is one of the most important steps to get moving. Once you are decided that you want to do it, then take another decision. Decide whether to do it NOW or to plan it for LATER. Whatever you decide, take an immediate action (do the task immediately or plan it in your agenda).
Special tricks to help decide and act against procrastination:
- If you decide to do it now and still feel resisting: decide, count one to five, get up and do it. A coach, Mel Robbins, recommends this technique to stop your brain from over-thinking and finding excuses why not to take an action.
- If it is something that you cannot do immediately: decide and plan the time in your agenda, make space for it. You can forget it for the time being, but when your calendar reminds you, just do it.
- Plan a regular time and day in a week you do activities that you usually procrastinate on (e.g. administrative tasks or cleaning your inbox). When an activity is already on your agenda, you make a deciding process simpler. No need to decide; just do it.
2. Conquer procrastination with action toward being productive.
It may sound obvious, but the problem with procrastination boils down to not taking action. The thing is, sometimes you simply need to warm up, get energized, and start with a task we enjoy that doesn’t involve the things on which we procrastinate. By completing a simpler or more enjoyable task first, you get an extra level of energy to use to tackle the task you’ve been postponing. For some people, being active is the best motivation.
Special tricks to take action against procrastination:
- If you don’t know how to start a difficult project, first sit down and plan how you can go about this project. Do a little research on any information already available and how others accomplish this task with ease. Limit this part to 10 to 15 minutes so you’re not using it as a reason to procrastinate even more. Make the task as simple and easy for yourself as possible. You might realize that the project is not as difficult as you had thought and get a few ideas for how to start working on it.
- If you catch yourself sitting at your computer not knowing how to handle a problem and feeling like the best route is to postpone, try talking to a friend or colleague. See if they can provide you with any ideas. Take a break, but make sure you come back and try again.
- Ask yourself: “What task would make me happy right now?” Then do it. Maybe it’s drinking a cup of coffee or listening to a song you like. Just don’t use these as excuses for procrastination! Choose one or two enjoyable activities to build up some motivation, then come back to what you’ve been postponing.
3. Close all doors of escape
We often procrastinate on tasks that have faraway deadlines because there is no immediate obligation to do them. This usually pertains to our own personal projects or complex, long-term projects.
In this case, you need to become accountable to someone else and close all doors of escape. If it is a big project, you need to break the project into steps and make yourself accountable for each step.
Special tricks to close doors of escape:
- If it’s a personal project, tell a friend that you want to start and ask him/her to check in with you on specific dates. Knowing that someone else will be checking on our progress can be a great motivator and help toward preventing procrastination.
- If it’s a work project, set up a meeting with your boss or colleagues to review specific steps you already accomplished. Not only will their oversight help you get moving, but it will also give you further insight on how to progress with your project if you get stuck.
4. The 2-in-1 plan.
Procrastination is often found in things that seem repetitive (not challenging enough) or too hard (too challenging). We know they will take a lot of energy. If you find a task to be boring or difficult, combine it with activities that make you happy and energized.
Special tricks for the 2-in-1 plan:
- Does cleaning your mailbox usually cause procrastination? However, you really enjoy listening to music. So, turn the music on, get in a good mood, and start cleaning your inbox. If you like to compete (even with yourself), make it a game – how fast can you clean your inbox?
- If working alone on a project is hard for you and you prefer working with a team, find a colleague, mentor, or adviser to help so you will feel supported by the vibe of collaboration.
5. Limit the time.
Some people find that tasks that take up a lot of time (or are perceived to) lead to procrastination. I am among them. So, for some challenging tasks, I give myself a lot of time. In the end, it is extremely counterproductive. I get demotivated that it takes so long. Then, I dwell on any potential slow-downs. I keep changing my plan. Before long, I just do not want to start at all.
A good way to get around this procrastination and lack of being productive is to limit the amount of time you will spend on a task. The less difficult and demanding it feels, the better the chance you will do it.
Special tricks to help limit the time:
- Try the Pomodoro Technique: spend 25 minutes on a task, then take a 5-minute break, rotating this technique for several cycles. It is actually a fun method. It feels like playing a computer game.
- Or you can try specific time slots: set a timer and spend only one hour on your project each day, but don’t allow yourself to wander off to any other task until your hour is up.
- Make your calendar full of many different projects: you will feel stretched and yet enjoy the variety of tasks.
6. Try and see
Sometimes tasks that we’ve never done before can cause procrastination. We imagine them to be hard or boring, but we don’t actually know how much time or effort they will really take.
In this case, you can simply fool yourself and give yourself permission to try and see. You start, try how it feels, and if you don’t like it you can simply stop. In this way, you remove the pressure on yourself that can be demotivating and hinder productivity.
Special tricks for trying and seeing:
- If you catch yourself not feeling like doing it, then go running or start responding to emails. Decide to give it a try and allow yourself to stop at any time. You will see that you might find out you enjoy it in the end.
- If you do not feel like going to a networking event or a sports class, tell yourself to go. Then, see if you want to enter or stay. Once there, you will probably not want to waste time going back home. You are totally free to do so, but you will probably want to stay.
Whatever you procrastinate on, small things or big things, stop being harsh on yourself. Everybody procrastinates from time to time. Trust you can change your habits and trust you can make anything easy or fun. Start playing with your procrastination, experiment, and find out what works the best for you to be productive.
Try this: go now and select one task you have postponed for some time and test a new trick. Then come back here and leave a comment. Tell us how it felt.
You can find out more at our workshop “Tackle Procrastinating and Get Moving with Action Blocks” offered by Ruth Friedman and Lenka Grackova.
Enjoy the game! Relish accomplishing great things! Enjoy making your life more fulfilled!
About the trainer and coach:
Lenka Grackova is an international trainer and coach. She builds on 14 years hands-on business experience in marketing, sales, logistics, start-up, brain-based coaching techniques, and interpersonal skills to assist people in finding more enthusiasm when they go through challenging developments. To learn more about Lenka’s professional training and coaching, click here.