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Procrastination… the enemy of progress that likes to creep up in our everyday life. It’s when you find yourself delaying a task by telling yourself that you’ll do it later on when in fact you have the capacity to do it there and then, all the while knowing that you’ll be worse off for putting it off (1). It’s sometimes hard to point out as it’s something experienced mentally and/or emotionally (2), but when it’s happening, it can get in the way of your goals, your financial wellbeing, your health(3), and can lead to feelings of guilt, stress, or even low-self-esteem (4). Though it’s quite common, and a part of many people’s lives in some form or another, it’s probably something we can all improve on, so below I will be sharing 10 ways to prevent procrastination as much as possible, so that it does not get in the way of your life.
1) Having an accountability partner
There is nothing like good old fashioned peer pressure or healthy competition to keep you in check. Studies also show that emotional social support can have a positive effect on a person’s behaviour (5,6). It’s also likely that by having your reputation on the line, chances are you will be more likely to push yourself to completion, as you know you don’t want to be deemed unreliable or labeled as a bullsh*tter.
2) Get ahead of the fear
Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of making the wrong choice, fear of looking like an idiot.. I completely understand how fear can hinder your actions. If this is you, I would suggest you identify what it is you are afraid of and try to get ahead of that fear. If you are worried about failure, seek out someone experienced and find out what are the common mistakes beginners make and how to avoid them. If you are afraid of the unknown give yourself a head start by doing some background research and get yourself to the point where you feel comfortable about what to expect and what is expected of you. The truth is everyone experiences fear, it’s just that some get ahead of it and hide it better than others.
3) Write things down
By writing things down, you are almost forced to think things through and almost brainstorm what it is you have to do. Confusion is a big factor in procrastination, and unless you have clarity about what’s ahead of you, chances are you are going to feel bogged down and stressed out. Write out a plan and share it with a friend, if your written thoughts make sense to your friend then you are probably at a good foundation.
4) Reward yourself
A lot of times, we tend to avoid a task simply because we dread the boredom or the mental strain associated with that activity, but if you place a reward at the end of the task, or even make it entertaining, it can then become more “bearable” as the anticipation of a reward can be motivating. Rewards can be something like watching a TV show, or treating yourself to a home spa experience. Ways to entertain yourself could be to use equipment that you like the look of, or play some music in the background, whatever it is that gets your feel good hormones running, use that.
5) Break things down
Another reason why procrastination can occur is simply because we feel overwhelmed by the entirety of the job. You think about that goal you set for yourself, or you look at your messy house and you’re like “urgh, I can’t even deal with this,” so you find other things to do instead. However, once you break things down into small tasks and assign a reasonable time frame to each one, things will appear way more manageable. So again, maybe cleaning 1 room a day (Pinterest has many schedules that you can print/download) or putting together a timeline chart of all the small tasks that will contribute to your goal, can help you to look at things from an easier point of view.
6) Make things easy
Create as few resistance points as possible, for instance, you can automate your savings, place only healthy food items within easy reach, create a cleaning schedule. Another good way to reduce effort would be to create a routine. Routines become habits and habits reduce procrastination.
7) Avoid distractions
I hesitate to say this one because I know many are having to home-school at the moment. But if you do an audit of every single thing you do in a day, you will start to notice that some activities just eat away your time unnecessarily. Common distractions include the phone, the internet, resolving something, all of which mean that it takes you longer to complete a task. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s important to have regular breaks, but balance is the key. Close the unnecessary tabs, make sure the kids don’t want for anything, put your phone on silent, and make sure you have already gone to the toilet. Whatever it is you have used as an excuse before, either get it out of the way, delegate it, and signal to those around you not to disturb you for a certain period of time.
8) Create a supporting environment
It is very difficult to keep up positive habits in a negative environment. A house that has lots of chocolates and crisps available will probably make it difficult to stick to a diet. Factors such as getting a healthy amount of sleep, or having a supportive partner are positive examples, because we all know that people thrive in an environment of support. Your environment is really important because it can shape how you experience things which in turn can affect your behaviour (or lack of).
9) Do the hard things first
There is a really good book called Eat That Frog!, that I highly recommend, the philosophy behind the book is that if you begin your day by carrying out the most difficult task on your to-do-list, every other task should be a breeze to get through. In this book, eating a frog is an analogy for an undesirable activity, but by focusing on it first, and getting it out of the way everything else should be easier to tackle. You can listen to this book for free if you sign up to Audible by clicking the book title.
However, if your personality works differently, you could try the Task Snowball approach, whereby you start your day by completing a few smaller tasks first then gradually move on to the more demanding ones as your momentum builds up throughout the day.
10) Just get started
Alas, you will never know what works for you or how to approach a situation until you take any action, so just getting started is the best advice I can share. The famous author Mel Robbins once reminded an audience that you will never “feel” like doing anything and waiting for the right time or a burst of motivation to hit you will never come, so you just have to manually get started. She has a book called The 5 Second Rule, in which she advises that from the moment you have an inkling to do something, you should take no more than 5 seconds to launch yourself into it, otherwise your brain will find a way to talk you out of it. It’s a really good book and also another one I would recommend.
I have to admit, I made several cups of tea whilst writing this blog post, and daydreamed more times than I would have liked, so I am not saying I am the productivity queen. Procrastination is something that is universal to many, and I don’t think will go away entirely, but it can create unnecessary problems if say you constantly miss deadlines, ignore the funny sound your car is making, ignore the ache in the back of your mouth, going to sleep at an unreasonable hour, the list goes on. It can be a form of self-sabotage because you are doing yourself a disservice if you won’t even give yourself a proper chance to shine. I recently finished off a book called Atomic Habits, another good read I highly recommend and a good quote I took away from it is “professionals keep going, amateurs let life get in the way.”