Everyone procrastinates one time or another. Putting important things off, because you’d rather watch TV seems… comfortable. Though it quickly gets out of hand if we don’t get a hold of this behaviour. Before it turns into habit. Habits are hard to break, but certainly not impossible. It’s a lot more work though than catching yourself before it’s engrained into your brain.
Actually procrastination is only the symptom. I’ve learned that there are certain factors that play the key role in this game. If you manage to improve your conditions, procrastination is eliminated in the process. Or minimized, because – let’s be honest – nobodys perfect!
Clarity means having a clear picture of the task you want or have to do and the expected results. If you don’t know what you have to do, you have to switch to planning mode and switching modes while working wastes mental energy. Also you’re prone to procrastination in the process of switching, therefore it’s very important to have the to-do figured out beforehand.
How to get clarity
Schedule regular planning sessions. I do it on a weekly basis, because a week covers a few days without making the number unmanageable. And you will have to readjust the course regularly anyway, because you’re probably going to overestimate what you can do in the given time.
Clearly define each task and what result you want to get out of it. This ensures that you know WHAT to do and WHERE you’re headed.
This one is my personal Achilles’ heel. If you burden yourself with huge tasks or a ton of work that you cannot possibly accomplish in the given time, you’re simply overwhelmed. Overwhelm is one sure-fire way to slip into procrastination, because the tasks at hand simply are too intimidating. Therefore empowerment is incredibly important. You want to feel in control and you do that by scheduling your work in managable and achievable chunks.
How to feel empowered
Use your planning sessions to evaluate, what time you have available and what tasks you need to get done. Estimate how long you need for each task and see if you can fit it into the time available to you. If it doesn’t, you have to find a solution. Reschedule, talk to clients or whoever is dependent on you.
Break huge tasks into manageable steps. Smaller tasks are easier to estimate and to handle. It’s also way more satisfying to check off smaller steps than not checking off one huge task that you haven’t been able to finish.
A sense of urgency overrides the part of you that seeks pleasure and instant gratification. Do you remember those school days when a paper was due? …it most likely went along like ‘I have a motivation problem until I have a time problem’. You can use this in your everyday life by setting (realistic!) deadlines and creating some form of urgency to get stuff done.
How to create urgency
Create realistic deadlines for your goals. This requires you to analyze everything you have to do to achieve that goal and to estimate how long you need to get all of those things done. If you don’t know that, you’re going to set an unrealistic and void deadline.
Use short-time challenges. Pomodoro is one useful way to get stuff done in a set amount of time. Set a timer and work your a** off until it goes off.
Balance is one thing that most of us are guilty of neglecting. We are no robots, we cannot be productive non-stop, without break, without recharging. Scheduling down-time is vital in staying productive in the long run. Life is no high-speed marathon. You’re in this for the long run and that requires regular breaks.
How to create balance
Schedule down-time. Time to relax is so important. Give yourself enough space fo refill your bucket by doing something you enjoy doing. Walks in nature are proven to be beneficial, but you can also read or do a hobby of yours. Whatever connects yourself with your soul.
Schedule breaks. Energy levels drop while working non-stop. I’m someone who often works with Pomodoro – working 25 minutes straight and then taking a 5 minute break. Every two hours I take a longer break of 35 minutes though and I deeply need it to get my energy and concentration up again.
We all have this urge to seek comfort, pleasure and quick fixes. Having a partner in crime, someone who holds you accountable on your path is priceless. I’m not talking about a devil with a whip, but someone who has encouraging words, but doesn’t let you off the hook from your own commitments. People with the same goals are especially beneficial, because you’ll motivate each other with your actions and you have healthy peer pressure.
How to get accountability
This completely depends on what you’re doing and what you want. I’d start by going to a goal/ topic related forum and asking around for an accountability buddy. Or search for a group on Facebook that focuses on the same goals and ask there. You can also ask a friend of yours who is encouraging and motivated. You’ll have to try what works for you here.
As I’ve mentioned before, we humans love distraction. Something that stimulates our brains is always more enticing than doing hard work. Therefore it’s incredibly helpful to eliminate as many distractions as possible to make it easier for you to stick to your goals.
How to eliminate distraction
Block the Internet. There are some add-ons for your browser that block certain websites, like those tempting Social Media sites. You know what I’m talking about. Or cut off your Internet completely during your work sessions. Simple and effective.
Remove distracting things from your work space. You know what distracts yourself. Put those things away.
There are a lot of ways in which you can implement those key factors and you’re free to try out as many as you want. See what works for you and what doesn’t. It’s incredibly helpful though to know the general parameters, because you can check in anytime and see where you’re off the path. It’s not about the method you’re using, it’s about the bigger picture behind it.
Did you find this article helpful? What experiences have you had with fighting procrastination? What works for you? Let us know in the comments below.
The book No Excuses! The Power of Self-Discipline by Brian Tracy contains additional information on improving productivity and I learned a lot from it.
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