Wednesday, 22 July 2020

How to overcome procrastination

In yesterday’s blog we looked at some of the reasons why we procrastinate:
  • Decision paralysis
  • Time inconsistency
  • Lack of self-belief
Today, we’ll be looking at how to actually overcome procrastination – something that impacts us all every day to varying degrees.

The first thing to keep in mind when trying to overcome procrastination is that everyone is different so some of the tips discussed here might not work for you. However, it’s worth giving them all a try to see which ones you find most effective.

Acknowledge that you’re procrastinating

This seems really basic, but it’s the first and most important step towards overcoming procrastination. In order to deal with anything, we first need to acknowledge that we're doing it.

Take stock of your day and the past week, how much did you really work, how much did you really invest in the tasks at hand, and how much did you procrastinate?

Just to be clear, switching focus to other tasks that really require your attention is not procrastination, but turning away from the most important work to instead look at your Instagram feed is.

Think about the past week, tally your hours of productivity and hours of procrastination for each day. Try not to kid yourself, its really important for you to be really honest here. Did you take an extra hour for lunch? Did you really need to watch that YouTube video about funny cats? Did you really need to watch that boxset on Netflix?

You may find this process a bit demoralizing, but remember that you’re recording your procrastination time in order to overcome it, and that’s a really good thing.

Invest in some key strategies to overcome procrastination

Once you've acknowledged how much you’ve been procrastinating, you'll likely want to start to invest in some strategies to help you stop.

Let’s take a look at a few that might be helpful.

Forgive yourself

This is so important. After you’ve recognised your procrastination behaviours, as we discussed earlier, you could go down one of two roads. You could either beat yourself up for procrastinating so much, fixating on time that you won’t get back. Or you could learn to show yourself some compassion, forgive yourself, and move on.

One of the best ways to forgive yourself is to understand why you procrastinate. As we spoke about in our previous blog post, you may have had low self-belief in your ability to undertake the task you were trying to work on. You may have had multiple things going on at once that were all fighting for your attention and it therefore became overwhelming. All of these reasons make sense, so forgive yourself and move forward.

Take back the power

We often procrastinate when we feel powerless over what we’re doing:
  • Maybe your boss has instructed you that you MUST get something done by the end of the week. 
  • Maybe your partner has said that you HAVE to clean the bathroom. 
  • Maybe your bank has said to you that you NEED to get a pension sorted out.
MUST, HAVE, NEED…these are all disempowering words, which take the power away from you and put it into the hands of someone else.

When we feel we’re doing something for someone else, particularly when it’s something that we’d rather not be doing, we’re much more likely to procrastinate. What you could do instead is reframe these things and take the power back.
  • Your boss has asked you to complete something by the end of the week and you CHOSE to undertake it.
  • Your partner has asked you to clean the bathroom and you would LIKE to help them out.
  • Your bank manager has advised you to look at your pension and you WANT to get it done.
CHOOSE, LIKE, WANT…these are words that are much more empowering. They give you ownership of the task at hand.

Eat the frog first

Ok, so what do frogs have to do with procrastination? Basically, what this means is do the difficult thing first. Perhaps you really took some of the earlier points about overcoming procrastination on board? Perhaps you thought about why you procrastinate and got up early the next morning ready to work?
The best thing you could do to help keep procrastination at bay for the rest of the day is to do the difficult thing first before you do anything else.

If you need to finish writing and proof reading a big report for work, you're studying for a university exam that is looming, or you have another important task to do, eat the frog first, get it out of the way and get on with the rest of your productive day.

Invest in some practical strategies

These new ways of thinking and working are really effective, but what can be just as helpful are some practical steps that can assist you in overcoming your procrastination. Let’s take a look at a couple.

Get great, not just good, at organising

Often when we procrastinate, it has a lot to do with the fact that we’ve not been organised enough ­­– we’ve not set in place the things we want to achieve and so therefore we end up being less productive.

Write a list of the things you want to get done tomorrow and when you want to do them. The more organised you are, the less opportunity you give yourself to procrastinate.

Keep your timing

In order to stay productive and minimise procrastination, you should also think about your timing. Set yourself a time limit on how long you’re going to be working on one thing.

It's important not to fuel your procrastination, so make sure you know what you're doing, when you're doing it, and for how long.

Give yourself more structure, set limits on the tasks you’re undertaking and time limits on your breaks and your procrastination will be sure to reduce.

Procrastination can be a challenge for everyone, but with a sounder understanding of why you procrastinate, and some key tips on overcoming it, procrastination will hopefully become a thing of the past.

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