On several occasions, I have a deadline looming and instead of working towards it, I tend to fiddle around with miscellaneous tasks. I often check emails, spend time on Facebook, or surf the internet when I should be focusing on my priorities. Whether it is work-related deadlines or household chores, I tend to put them off to another day for silly reasons.
Procrastination is the habit of postponing tasks and taking them up only when it’s extremely unavoidable. People postpone tasks either because they feel overwhelmed by a tough task at hand, or because they prefer to wait until the last moment so that they are motivated enough to complete the task. Procrastination is a common habit; however chronic procrastination can leave you with dire consequences. This habit eats into your productivity, adversely affects your reputation, and prevents you from achieving greater heights.
If procrastination has become a problem for you, here are ten tips which will help you get rid of the habit allowing you to become more productive in personal and professional life.
Stop the Mental Chatter and Start Now!
Often our minds rationalize procrastinating behaviors with excuses such as lack of time, information, and ability to do the task immediately. Further our minds ratify this behavior by promising a higher degree of success if the task is procrastinated. Reality check: I haven’t seen or heard anyone who has achieved greater success through procrastination.
At times, you need to jump into the task whether you are ready or not. A start is always better than no start. Don’t wait for a perfect time because the present moment is perfect to start. Strategy, plans and hypothesis will not help without action.
Split Your Goals into Actionable Steps
One more reason why people procrastinate is that subconsciously they feel plagued by the sheer size of the goal to be achieved. My advice: break your goal into little actionable steps and focus on one step at a time. Anticipate obstacles at each of these steps and have a plan ready to overcome them.
For instance, I am working on a new book ‘How to Sell Anything to Anyone.’ Writing a book can be a daunting task. To overcome this challenge I broke the task into actionable steps – researching, framing the outline, writing the content, revising, editing, and proof-reading. This helps me gain confidence and clarity.
The Five-Minute Wonder
I find this technique to be one of the best ways to beat procrastination. When faced with a complex task, ask yourself, “What small action can I complete in less than five minutes so that I move a little closer to my goal?” Once you have identified that small action set a timer and dedicate five minutes working on it. According to the Zeigarnik effect, once you start something, you are more likely to finish it. Thus, the one lesson that you learn here is to beat procrastination, start somewhere and the ripple effect will drive you towards your goals.
If you are dragging your feet through tasks too often, it can be because you are making it easy to procrastinate. This means that if you have loads of temptations around, you are more likely to get distracted and will start procrastinating.
Get rid of distractions. Deactivate social media notifications and put your phone on silent mode while you are focused on your task. You can also use applications like Rescuetime and StayFocusd that block distracting websites allowing you to focus on your work without delay.
Neutralize Your Negative Emotions
Fear, despair, and anger are negative emotions that tend to get stuck in your mind and prevent you from being optimistic. When negative emotions block your way, neutralize them by engaging in positive self-talk. For instance, if you think, “I will never be able to make this presentation,” contradict it by saying, “If others can do it, so can I.” At home, punch a pillow to release anger or go for a run when you feel low. Getting rid of negative emotions will set you back on track.
Get a Friend Involved
Having a friend by your side makes tasks easy and fun. Ideally, you should involve a companion who has his/her own set of goals. That way you both can hold each other accountable for achieving your goals and this spurs you into action. At work, you can seek help from a colleague to help you deliver the task.
Openly Announce Your Goals
Talking openly to others about your tasks indirectly shows your commitment to deliver them. Talk to your family, close friends, and acquaintances about your tasks and announce your ventures on social media. Given that your well-wishers and followers are aware of your goals, their keen interest will keep you going. That way you can curb the habit of procrastination.
Face Your Fears
Sometimes, it helps to understand the underlying reason for procrastinating a specific task. If you are afraid or feel overwhelmed, use the Five-Why Technique. Ask yourself “Why am I delaying this task?” and when you get an answer ask the question four more times till you get to the root cause of your fear. Facing your fears will help you fix the core obstacle and help you achieve your goals.
Examine the Consequences
This technique works for me when I have an extremely important task to complete. Consider what will happen if you don’t do the job. For instance, if you do not pay the electricity bill before the last date, you might have to pay a penalty. Similarly, if there is a delay in presenting an assignment at work, you might receive a poor grade in your mid-year appraisal. Thus, negative consequences motivate you to take timely action.
Visualize the End Result
Completing a challenging task is extremely satisfying and gives a sense of achievement and confidence to those involved. Visualize the rewards at the end of a task. Imagine yourself relaxing when a demanding chore is off your plate. Visualization can tremendously boost your confidence and build a sense of urgency. Thus, you will feel more energetic and motivated to complete your pending tasks.
When you crush procrastination with the handy tips mentioned above, you will be surprised at how quickly you can accomplish most of your important tasks. Do it now and let me know how it worked for you!