Some articles will state that only about 20 percent of the US population procrastinates. But let’s be real, it has to be larger than that.In a day and age of instant gratification and constant mind numbing entertainment, it would be shocking to imagine that only 1/5th of the US procrastinates. While not everyone will procrastinate to the level of some of us, everyone from time to time puts off those important tasks they know they need to get done. As a procrastinator in recovery myself, I am constantly looking for new and interesting strategies to work on my bad habits of delaying tasks and not getting important things done. It’s an ongoing process and I am constantly working to be better every single day. This is a list of things that I personally find helps me battle the big monster that is procrastination. These tips and tricks have personally helped me as I work on my bad habit of excessive procrastination so that I can get things done and accomplish more of my goals.
- Figure Out the “Why”
If you look into the science of why we procrastinate, it often times is an emotional response. We are avoiding that which we do not want to do and the feelings we think it will make us feel. Every activity we avoid has some emotion and reason attached to it. It’s going to take some internal digging in order to figure out your reasons for procrastinating but once you do it’s going to help combat the desire to delay important tasks. Maybe we don’t want to go to the dentist because we’re worried the dentist will tell us our teeth are terrible, or we don’t run those boring errands because they’re, well, boring. It helps to take some time to think about the task you keep avoiding, and thinking about why you might be avoiding it. Often times we know exactly what’s preventing us. It’s boring, it’ll take so much time, it’ll stress me out. Other times, it may take a bit more digging. You don’t want to call home because you don’t want to feel bad about not being able to see your family more often, or you don’t want to go to the doctor because you’re worried that you might be given some bad news. Sometimes we are even worried about failure, that what we do won’t be perfect, so we won’t even start. Identifying the underlying reasons for avoiding these things is one of the first steps to getting yourself on track.
2. Learning to Regulate Emotions
Realizing the emotional response behind your procrastination is only one step of learning to regulate your emotions in regards to delaying important tasks. The other step, is building up the actual skill of learning to regulate your emotions. Essentially learning to embrace the suck. Part of this is recognizing your feelings, dealing with, and tolerating those bad emotions. There are many ways to build up this skill, some of which you might already practice. Journaling your emotions in general, or in regards to procrastination, can be incredibly helpful. This can help you realize the reason behind why you put things off, how to make it easier for you, and how to tolerate these emotions. Think of it like a brainstorming session, but you’ll also be getting things off your chest. Other ways may be meditation or a form of meditation,such as mindfulness. These activities, over time, can help you learn to recognize thought patterns and how to reorient yourself emotionally. Mood and emotion tracking is also a helpful way to learn to regulate your emotions. I find it helpful as it helps me stop and assess how I am doing at various points in the day. There are many apps out there that can help streamline this and even have reminders for you so you don’t have to remember on your own. Personally I like to track how I’m feeling in a notebook or a bullet journal. I work better tactically and find that writing down my emotions is a much better way of processing what’s going on with me. All of these activities can help you recognize negative emotions which can help you with the process of identifying and handling those emotions.
- Pomodoro Technique (Making it your own)
The pomodoro technique is a tried and true method of fighting procrastination that you’ve probably already heard of. I’m here to suggest changing it up to fit your personal productivity style. Personally, I find that the 25 minute work, 5 minute break format doesn’t exactly work for me. When I do use the pomodoro, there’s a couple of different ways I mix it up. You can make the breaks longer, instead of 5 or 10 minutes, make them equal to the amount of time that you spent on the previous work session. If you worked for 30 minutes, take a 30 minute break. I find this especially helpful for those times when I’ve fallen off the productivity train and need to slowly get my brain back into the swing of things. Usually I don’t stay in this format for long before I start working longer and taking shorter breaks. This is also dependent on the type of task you are doing. If you are studying something intense, take a longer or equal break in order to give your brain the ability to check out for a bit. Your brain will fatigue much more quickly if you don’t give it proper rest. Another thing is to mix up your breaks. If you want to be able to get more done, try mixing in household tasks like folding laundry or learning something creative like practicing drawing or guitar. By mixing it up like this, you give the more focused part of your brain a break that can help refresh you for later intense focus sessions. Experiment with the pomodoro technique until you find something you really like.
- Combining Passive and Active Tasks
Combining passive tasks isn’t a groundbreaking idea but when I first learned the concept I was very excited to implement it. Take tasks that do not require full attention, such as washing the dishes, cooking, folding laundry, washing the floors, and combine it with another task. Cook with your family/significant other to get some good socializing time, call a friend or listen to that audio book you’ve been putting off while you wash the floors or wash the dishes. I’m not saying to multitask though! Instead, there are tasks out there that only require so much of your focus in order to complete the task. These are the types of things you can take advantage of to get a few other things done. Not only that, but sometimes, combining things like listening to books or talking with someone while cleaning or cooking, can make the activity easier to complete and a bit more fun in the end.
- Creating Rituals
You hear people say that they can’t get their day started until they have their coffee or until they have a shower. While there are many reasons these things work, one of the reasons is because it creates a bit of a habit loop. By creating an association between your coffee and getting work done, your brain will then be able to shift gears more efficiently, even to the point where some habits become automatic. The same thing happens when you get home from work. If the first thing you do is watch TV or videos online when you get home, your brain starts to associate the end of the work day with entering into relaxation or procrastination mode. Think of something you would like to do, something that will act as an enjoyable leadup to being productive. If you can do this ritual and then get to work soon after, your brain will start to associate that ritual with getting down to work. It could be going for a run, taking a cold shower, or just having a cup of coffee while watching an episode of your favorite show. As long as you follow it up with something productive, you’ll soon be associating that run or whatever with getting things done.
- Break it Down and Just Get Started
Another thing I find incredibly helpful is breaking tasks down into bite size chunks. It’s so helpful to write down all the things you want to have done, simply because sometimes we just forget that we have to do it. But other times a task can be overwhelming, which is why we avoid it. To reduce how oversized a goal or task might feel, breaking it down into smaller tasks will make it less intimidating. The smaller the better. If you are looking to write an essay, break it down into every imaginable step. Brainstorm 5 ideas. Pick 1 idea. Write a 10 point outline. Write for 2 hours. Writing down every task is also helpful. For me, it helps solidify in my mind what I need to do, but I also get the satisfaction of crossing every little thing off my to do list. I find that by breaking tasks down to very small pieces not only helps make a task less overwhelming but it also helps create motion. Many times, it’s as easy as getting started. Tell yourself that you’ll do just one small task from your breakdown. That’s it, just that one task. Usually you will end up doing more than just that one task. Once you get started, it’s much easier to keep going. Half the battle is always just getting the wheels turning.
Those are my tips that I use currently to help me battle procrastination. I hope these were helpful tricks that spur you into action today. Let me know in the comments if you have any other tips and tricks for getting yourself to get things done. I’d love to hear what everyone else does to be productive.