You had the best of intentions. You were determined to ace your exam. You have your tea ready. And your pencils all sharpened, your highlighters ready, your meditation is done.
Om. Perfect focus, perfect determination. Bliss. Yes, the world was as it should be, in this space, at this moment.
And an idea enters your mind. It seems like a good one — one that supports your goals. So you allow it to enter, and you entertain the idea.
Yes, you’ve had a good start to your day, so you’re going to pre-empt distractions by just reviewing your social media feed now, just once, maybe for 2 minutes — 3 minutes, tops.
Then you would study for 5 hours straight. Yes, perfect plan. Go!
You weren’t mentally prepared for your friend Sam to post a funny cat video. You click on it and then get a good laugh. But then you find yourself watching more cat videos on YouTube.
And 3 minutes turns into 5, and then 10, and then 30, and then 60.
Before you know it, you’ve wasted 90 minutes, and are getting sleepy. Then you take a nap, and 3 hours later, it’s already time to go to bed.
You still have 50 pages of text to review. You’re screwed.
Sound familiar? We’ve all been there.
Procrastination…… is a roadblock to your productivity.
When you procrastinate, you put off important tasks to do unimportant things.
It is the gap between our intention and action.
Why would you choose an extra hour of games over an extra hour of sleep, or spend half the day on a movie marathon over studying for an exam?
Why would you willingly choose to let yourself down?
Are you intentionally delaying so you have more time to think? Or are you unmotivated, or downright lazy?
No worries! It’s not totally your fault.
Your brain is wired to be lazy… to choose the path of least resistance, and so once faced with decisions, your tendency is to lean towards the option that yields the most pleasure.
So, before you can take steps to overcome procrastination, you’ll have to first acknowledge that the issue exists.
You need to be self-aware so you may “catch yourself” in the act.
Making the decision to put off important things requires conscious thought, and so you always know when you’re procrastinating.
Here are some tips to help you overcome procrastination:
1. Just get started!
When you put off important tasks, it stays undone, so you might as well get it out of the way!
Procrastinating can be very mentally draining. Remember the times you’re doing something unimportant, like Facebooking, and at the back of your mind, you’re repeatedly reminding yourself that you need to study, or start working on your project?
Although Nike probably means well, “Just Do It” is not very helpful to many people because it can actually cause overwhelm.
To “Just Do It” means to complete the whole task, and sometimes, are tasks are very complex that the thought of doing the work to completion actually pushes us away from taking action.
So, instead of Just Do It, simply Just Get Started.
This is taking advantage of something we call Zeigarnik Effect—people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. This is why starting something and not completing it bugs us all day.
Try to just start with 5 minutes of a certain task or project, and you should be able to build momentum and finish it before you even know it.
The key is to just get started.
2. Delay gratification
You’ll really enjoy binge-watching YouTube videos when all your work is done—trust me! As the saying goes, “work now, play later”.
Think about the benefits you’ll get from doing what you need to do now, and use that to convince you to get started.
3. Reward yourself
Choosing to do something that’s “not fun” can very easily deplete your willpower.
Give yourself something to look forward to after completing your tasks by setting up a reward—a small treat, an episode of your favorite show, a few minutes of computer games, etc.
Note: Rewards come after you’ve completed a task, not before.
4. Overcome your fear of failure
Sometimes you put off an important task because you fear the outcome is not going to be “perfect”. If you do, remember that good is better than nothing.
On so many occasions, perfectionism will stop you before you even get started. Try to think of your output as a rough draft, instead of a final piece.
Get started and see how things go!
5. Use accountability
Social pressure can help you stop slacking and get started on your projects. Arrange for a friend to regularly check up on you, or better yet, work with a friend.
6. Reflect on the consequences
Simple—think about the consequences of your inaction to help push yourself to do what needs to be done.
7. List down your tasks, prioritize, and focus on one task at a time
Goal-setting is your best friend when it comes beating to procrastination.
If you’re overwhelmed by a big task, break it up into smaller, more manageable tasks and work towards its completion, one task at a time.
Completing small tasks increases your self-efficacy. Your accomplishments will have a snowball effect—the more (small) tasks you complete, the more confident and empowered you will feel to take on more (bigger) tasks.
Oh, by the way, I’ve shared some of my favorite productivity tools here.
8. Stay motivated
Think about the end goal. What do you want to achieve in your life in the long haul? Get busy and set some goals!
Also, try creating your impossible list. It’s more fun to see the things you want to achieve in your life in writing. This gives you a willpower boost and helps you tackle the “not-so-fun” but important tasks.
These strategies will surely help you overcome procrastination. It may be hard at first, but with every decision, you make to stop procrastinating, your chances of breaking the habit increase!
Which strategies will you be using the next time you start procrastinating? Let me know in the comments section below.
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