It happens to all of us. You resolved to start going to the gym for an hour every day, but it’s been weeks and you haven’t started yet. Why? Because you keep finding excuses to attend it later on.
So, you wake up one day and vow to start your fitness program later that day. The evening comes and after reaching home, you decide to open your laptop and respond to an email.
You send the email and after closing the browser, you notice this Netflix icon on your desktop and tell yourself, “It’s been a long day, and finally, I have a break, rest is important too.”
So, you start the first episode of Stranger Things, and as the episode draws to an end, you think, “Okay, let me watch only one more episode, and dash to the gym.” The pattern repeats itself for the next four hours until you finally tell yourself, “I’ll go to the gym tomorrow.” Sounds familiar?
Another week, month, or even year can end before you hit the gym, write that book, start your blog, quite that bad habit, learn a new skill or even tell someone you love her.
Behind procrastination, there’s rationalization; you want to accomplish a task, but for some reason, a logical explanation not to complete it, comes up from nowhere.
So, how do we outsmart this rationalization and eventually beat procrastination?
1. Take small steps
Look at these two goals:
- To visit the gym and work out for one hour a day
- To visit the gym and work out for 15 minutes a day
Which of the two do you see yourself procrastinating on? The first one and the reason is, working out for a whole hour sounds more intimidating than working out for only 15 minutes.
If you procrastinate a lot, chances are your goals are too far from your comfort zone. While your long-term goals ought to be ambitious, you want to make them realistic and small enough to feel motivated to achieve them. Start by exercising 15 minutes a day, or just start exercising at a few times a week. Baby steps.
2. Identify one reward from your action
To help overcome procrastination, focus on something positive that may happen when you take action.
For example, if you’ve been delaying the setting up of a business website, think about the extra customers who are likely to discover your site and buy from you and what you can accomplish with the profits you’ll make.
This may just motivate you to take the first step and purchase a domain name and hosting service.
3. Create a hard deadline and commit to it
One way to beat the natural tendency of procrastinating is to set a hard deadline and mark it on your calendar. Scheduling a deadline and committing to it can make it easier to complete some tasks. You should treat the deadline as if your boss gave it to you, and is waiting for you to complete the task.
4. Break it down
No matter the task you’re trying to work on, whether it’s painting a house, climbing a mountain or writing a book, you’ll make the bigger task look manageable by breaking it into smaller pieces.
For example, if you intend to write a 20,000-word book, divide it into small sections of 500 words each, and focus on writing only 500 words a day. Concentrate on achieving what’s before you at this moment and ignore what should be done tomorrow or next week.
5. Remove the obstacles
Before starting on any task, take a minute to identify those obstacles that may get in the way. Be honest with yourself. This is where you admit what distracts you from completing your work and reaching your goals. Next, create a plan to keep the obstacles out of the way. For example, you may have a task to work on from your laptop, but each time you want to start, Facebook notifications keep popping up and you have to visit your Facebook page to check the notifications. You’ll be tempted to leave a comment, and before you know it, three of your best friends are waving at you on chat.
In this case, the most honorable thing to do is to close all social media tabs and instant messaging apps on your phone and computer and disable notifications for several hours, then focus on accomplishing your task.
6. Make the first step, no matter what
At times, getting started on something can be an uphill task, even if it’s something you enjoy doing. The first step can be the hardest, but once you make it, you’ll start making progress. So, instead of staring at that blank Word document, type the first sentence. Instead of worrying about your debts, start updating your resume and apply for jobs online.
When you jump right in despite the circumstances, your mood quickly gets better thus helping you to stay on your task.
7. The five-minute miracle
This is a powerful technique if you’re struggling with procrastination. You need to ask yourself, “What action should I take in under five minutes today that will help me make progress even by the smallest bit?
After identifying the small action, time yourself for five minutes (set a timer) and work on the task for those five minutes. According to research, once you start a task, you’re more likely to complete it. The Zeigarnik effect is a psychological phenomenon that states that people tend to remember interrupted or unfinished tasks more than completed ones.
8. Forgive yourself
Chances are you’ve procrastinated in the past, and you probably feel guilty about it. According to research, forgiving yourself for any previous procrastination makes it easier for you to overcome the current procrastination. That’s why you should exercise self-compassion when thinking about your previous experiences on procrastination.
9. Find an accountability partner
Most of us know that we need to do something, but we keep putting it off and don’t want to seek help from a friend. Seek help from someone and let them know you’ll are available to help them accomplish tasks too. Accountability will make you committed because if you fail you’ll not only let yourself down but your partner as well. Find that one partner that can help you beat procrastination.
10. Reward yourself for each task you accomplish
Create a to-do list and start doing a task. After doing it, give yourself some reward such as a few minutes on your best social media network, a piece of candy and so on.
After this, attend to another task on your list that you’d like to do and keep on alternating. This minimizes the difficulty of your tasks.
It’s never too late to start making efforts to overcome procrastination. Start by doing at least one of the things mentioned, and you’ll see your productivity soar to unimaginable levels.