Most people LOVE to procrastinate. To the point that they will take on tasks they've been procrastinating in order to procrastinate something else.
Putting off tasks is an American pastime. But some people really do not fall victim to procrastination at all--those superheroes are here to share their secrets.
Here were some of those answers.
Such Method, So Strategy
I attack my duties in a strategic way.
Every monday morning, I make a list of "Weekly Tasks". From that list I then cull "Monday and Tuesday Tasks" and put the rest of the list away.
I then concentrate only on the "Monday and Tuesday Tasks".
On Wednesday morning, I pull out the "Weekly Tasks" list and now make a new short list "Wednesday and Thursday" tasks etc.
A big reason for procrastination is that we get overwhelmed with all the tasks that have to be done so we go on survival mode and just don't do anything. This is a well known psychological phenomena that is not abnormal or uncommon.
The key then to overcome this I think, is to break things down and attack them slowly. Rather than 435 tasks that have to be done in a month...you break them down into 88 tasks that need to be done this week. You then further break it down into 14 tasks that need to be done today.
You then put the other lists aside and just go down the list and accomplish your 14 tasks today.
I assume you procrastinate at home. Dress as if you were going out. Your brain will feel as if you aren't at home and feel more productive.
Things By Priority
Passion/drive it is easier to get things done if you like or enjoy the task. Not everyone can 'do what you love' but maybe you can take on more of the job duties you enjoy. If this isn't possible now, how can you get there 1, 2 or 5 years from now.
Backwards planning helps. Start with what the finished project and deadline is, and then work backwards setting benchmarks that you want to reach. It gives you obtainable goals, and provides a sense of completion.
Planning- create daily/weekly/monthly list, this is just dependent on your work. You can use paper or online apps (ToDoist or Asana). Then reorder them by urgency and importance, prioritization is key. It is easy to get stuck doing a low-importance non-urgent task, to put off others. Not everything urgent is important and not all important tasks are urgent.
Know your peak time. I crush all my biggest projects first thing in the morning, luckily I was able to shift my schedule to start earlier to coincide with my internal schedule. But by 3 I am useless and no brain power is left in the tank.
Avoid time sucks. I do a quick email scan in the morning, and if nothing big happened overnight, I leave everything to be done later. Otherwise, I get stuck answering emails, and it is noon before I know it. I'm still doing something, so I feel like I'm working but what I'm really doing is procrastinating.
In the end it all comes down to motivation and habits. There are plenty of books out there, The Power of Habit and Atomic Habits, that speak on how creating habits is more important than goal setting. Motivation, well that is harder to nail down. If you aren't motivated by what you do, then do some internal digging to see why you are doing it. If you can't find any reason to be motivated, then maybe explore some of the things that do motivate you and see if you can make changes to get there. Build your talent stack.
Make lists or use a calendar. Write things like "From 1pm to 2pm I'm going to work on my resume".
When it's right in front of you like that, it's like a doctors appointment. You just do it because it's scheduled.
Break Steps Down More
"If you're having trouble getting started, the first step is too big."
Things seem hard to start because you don't actually know what physical, visible action is necessary to move them forward. Think about what that is and do it - even if it's just opening the word document you're trying to make progress on and reviewing it.
Look up 'Getting Things Done', the whole system changed my life.
It helped me stop procrastinating as much when I stopped thinking it was just a part of my personality and instead started recognizing it as an unhealthy coping mechanism that I had learned throughout my childhood to deal with anxiety. Now when I want to procrastinate I try to figure out what about the task is making me anxious, and remind myself that I feel ten times more anxious when I have a task looming over my head.
Discomfort As A Method Of Growth
Everything I've learned so far:
- None of this is a secret. Growth comes from discomfort. Muscle growth comes from tearing muscles. Weight loss comes from burning energy stores. Knowledge comes from challenging our existing understand of the world. Likewise, productivity comes from doing what we don't want now for the sake of what we do want in the long run. Until you accept that there isn't an easy way, that you need to get uncomfortable, you will never truly grow in anything.
- Adopt a better mindset. Identify as a productive person and fail rather than as a procrastinator that's meeting expectations. Our minds have a way of wanting to meet expectations, for better and for worse. Identity is more important than we realize.
- Become more emotionally intelligent and self-aware. Often procrastination isn't a problem with distraction or lack of will power, but rather the inability to cope with other matters in life. It's like figuring out why you're having a reoccurring nightmare.
- Study up on habits. They're rather simple really, but it's key that you understand exactly how we're basically the result of our neural programming; we don't make as many "free" decisions as we think on a given basis. Again, it ties back to our identity. We're simple creatures that like to follow predictable routines, so it's essential that you break up and restructure your routines.
- When in doubt, start with one of the three keystone habits of better health: sleep, fitness, food. Any one of the three will generally help with the other two, which will then snowball into many other good habits during your life. Essentially with better health and more energy comes a better mood, more productivity, and more trust in the idea that initial discomfort leads to more lifelong satisfaction.
- Another key trick, whenever you think of something that ought to be done, unless you truly have something more important happening right now, just tell yourself "do it now". In the middle of an episode of something and remember the laundry needs doing? No, don't wait until after the episode, do it now. Need something from the grocery store for something you're planning to make in a few days? No, it can't wait, do it now. This ties in with 4. You're rewiring your brain to associate the acknowledgement of a todo item with simply getting it done ASAP as opposed to believing it can be addressed later. So once something big important does come along, you just get it over with out of a habit rather than as a deliberate effort on your part.
Do the things that need to be done first. What do I need to do that cannot wait. What am I worried about? Then if it's big and I wonder where do I start - I try to to see what little things can I do, and what do I need to do to be able to tackle the big things. What can I treat myself to as a reward for getting this done? Although that line of thinking can be dangerous as not every deed warrants or rewards a treat. I write down a list of things and tick off what I can. Sometimes - nothing goes your way and I try to relax and give myself a break knowing that tomorrow is a new day.
I am an over thinker though who worries a lot and I think that in reality it's that that motivates me because I worry what people think and usually get things done so it's one less thing hanging over my head when I try to sleep at night.
For Positive Reinforcement
I love being praised.
If the trash gets taken out, dishes are done, etc. my GF will always notice and let me know it's appreciated!
The same reason I started practicing guitar and going back to the gym. She's far more musically inclined than me; which makes it so incredibly rewarding when she tells me I'm doing great. Or let me know my clothes are getting loose.
I know it's probably pretty shallow, but it's getting my lazy butt up.
Methodical Thought Experiments
Procrastination (at least for me), is usually about avoidance - an anxiety about doing a poor job, and getting judged for that. So, it becomes about a job "not yet done" is better than "a job done poorly, inviting shame/criticism/rejection."
Unfortunately, it's almost always the case that waiting til the last minute produces a worse result than simply starting early, and the chances of actually receiving criticism on the work done is almost always overblown in my mind.
Thus, it took a while, but retraining my thinking into the following helped:
- I'm procrastinating because I fear rejection/criticism.
- My fear of the criticism is likely overstated.
- Any attempt is better than no attempt.
- Starting early produces a better result, reducing the chance of criticism.
- It is in my best interest to get the things that produce this anxiety done as swiftly as possible, so that I can stop worrying.