Do you ever procrastinate? I think everyone does.
All of us struggle to focus at times and find ourselves wasting endless hours doing something trivial. This could be losing yourself in the downward spiral of recommended YouTube videos, or watching just one more episode of the Netflix series you’re in the middle of.
But procrastination can also manifest itself by tackling side projects that have no real importance, while you avoid the big challenge that requires effort and brainpower. This way it seems as if you are working productively, but the task that will really help you forward is left on the shelf.
Why you are procrastinating
Procrastination is not just a time management issue reflecting laziness or a lack of motivation. Your self-discipline is not to blame. Instead, it is actually an emotional challenge that you are avoiding.
You’ll make up excuses for not working on the task you need to do, because deep inside you are afraid of failure. It could be that the task seems risky, or so complex that you are not sure what the outcome is going to be.
So it’s not only a fear of failure, but also a fear of success. Because on the road to success, you will face increased scrutiny from others, which means increased pressure to perform and an associated fear that you may let everyone down and fall short of expectations.
If you are a perfectionist, this may manifest itself by not starting the task at all, as this will prevent you from putting yourself in a position of failure. In this way, you can continue to pretend that you have a perfect track record, because you only take on challenges of which you are sure about the end result.
But of course, you’ll never get anywhere that way. All progress requires effort. Moreover, the task at hand remains unfinished. Depending on the nature of the task, you are betraying yourself, sabotaging your own progress, or disappointing people around you.
“Procrastination has taught me how to do 30 minutes of work in 8 hours and 8 hours of work in 30 minutes.”
@justsayraywrld on Twitter
How to overcome procrastination
Before you engage in all sorts of time management methods, find out if your procrastination has an emotional origin. Find out what emotions your task evokes. Is it anxiety? If so, what exactly are you afraid of? Do you think you will not be able to complete the task successfully? Are you afraid that others will criticize your work? Are you afraid that after completing the task, it will lead to a whole new set of tasks?
One way to get rid of your fear is to detach yourself from the outcome, but instead make progress the goal. This way you can’t fail, because your every minute spent on your task is worth it.
As with everything in life, the beginning is usually the hardest. Once you get that out of the way, you’ll find the rest of the journey much easier.
To get started with your task, you can utilize the 5-minute rule. The 5-minute rule is a cognitive behavioral therapy technique for procrastination in which you set a goal of doing whatever it is you would otherwise avoid, but only do it for five minutes. If after five minutes it’s so horrible that you have to stop, you are free to do so.
Not only will you find that you can accomplish a lot within five minutes, but also that you will unconsciously spend longer than five minutes on the task you had been dreading for ages. This is because setting the intention and starting is usually the hardest part. By thinking about the task as something that may take only 5 minutes, it feels much less overwhelming and a lot more doable.
Setting the right environment
Your environment will partially determine how well you can overcome your procrastination. The fewer distractions, the better.
Therefore, clearly block out when you are going to work on your task. Tell people around you not to disturb you for the next hour, unless the building is on fire. Clear your desk, put away food, lock your pet in another room. Put all your devices on silent and put them out of arm’s reach and out of sight. Say to yourself, “I’m going to work on this task for X minutes now.”
By making it this explicit, you trigger your brain to go into focus mode, causing it to release more adrenaline and acetylcholine for increased attention.
Make the task easier to start
- Write down the tasks you need to do.
- Break big tasks into smaller tasks.
- Prioritize the tasks in order of importance.
- Pick an important task that seems the most doable/fun.
Your procrastination is defeated
Once you have stepped up to the challenge and completed your task, an indescribable sensation will race through your body. A feeling of triumph and relief. You will find that all along, procrastination was just a little voice in your head making you anxious. You can actually laugh about it. All it took was a different mindset and just doing the thing you need to do.
This guide will dive deeper into the reasons why we procrastinate and how it relates to instant and short-term gratification. We always convince ourselves that now is not the best time to start working on your task. This aritcle will help you get off the couch and stop your procrastinating within 5 minutes. Promised.
by James Clear
An excellent guide on how to stop procrastinating. It mentions interesting methods, such as the 2-minute rule and using visual cues that prompt you to take action.
by Time Urban
In this hilarious and insightful TED talk, Tim Urban takes us on a journey through YouTube binges, Wikipedia rabbit holes and bouts of staring out the window — and encourages us to think harder about what we’re really procrastinating on, before we run out of time.