Conquer procrastination with motivation
Forget the idea that to be motivated to do a task you must feel enthusiastic about it. This is often not true and if you wait for that ’magic moment’, you could be waiting for a very long time!
Instead, find an alternative motivation and use that to get you started. You can use the following questions to help you to decide which your strongest motivations are for a particular task.
- What will be the outcome of this task?
- How will you feel when this outcome is achieved?
- Is this part of a bigger picture?
- If you have done this type of task before how did you feel once you had started it?
- If you have done this type of task before how did you feel when it was completed
What are the benefits to you of doing this task:
- meeting a deadline
- short term goals
- long term goals
Who benefits from the completion of this task and how do they benefit:
- your work colleagues or team
- your family and/or friends
Overcome procrastination by managing your emotions
You may put off tasks because of negative emotions – you don’t want to feel bad. You may think that a task is boring or a waste of time or you may be worried that you’ll not do it well enough.
To get past this, first identify the reason that you’re putting off the task and then find some positive ways of looking at it. (yesterday’s post on motivations has some ideas). In other words, take a balanced and realistic view of your unpleasant feelings vs the benefits. Remind yourself of how many times in the past a task hasn’t seemed so bad once you had started it. This is not to say that you will suddenly enjoy the task or that you will complete it brilliantly, but you will do it and you will get to experience the positive emotions and/or benefits that you assigned to it (even if that is just the relief at having completed the task!).
Reprogram your brain to conquer procrastination
The brilliant thing about your brain is its neuroplasticity – you can reprogram it. So, by practising anti-procrastination techniques you can overcome your procrastination.
The trick is to spot that you are procrastinating as soon as you can and replace it with a more helpful activity that you have planned beforehand. This activity must stop the procrastinating activity dead and, if appropriate, be a set time length so that it doesn’t itself become procrastination! For example, turn off your phone, close your email app, tell the people you are chatting to that you have to go, count to 20, write down what you should be doing, have a quick walk, make a cup of coffee, do a breathing exercise. Whatever your anti-procrastination activity, the next step is to get on with whatever it was you should have been doing.
As with all new habits, anti-procrastination will take time to embed. Remember that your brain is reprogrammable and the more you practice the stronger the anti-procrastination circuits will become and the procrastination ones will start to fade away.
Conquer procrastination by planning
Will power can be weak, so even if you have got over your initial procrastination you may easily be disheartened once you start the task if you haven’t got some structure. So, plan ahead, have your resources ready, break the task down into manageable parts and set yourself timed work and break sessions (timers on phones were made for this!)
Being realistic, sometimes you will be ‘in the zone’ and want to work longer than the time you allowed and this is fine, however do not allow your break times to extend as this is procrastination!
Also, sometimes you may find yourself in an unproductive loop, e.g. reworking a paragraph over and over unsuccessfully or making lots of silly mistakes, and decide to take an earlier break, again, this is fine but do stick to your allocated break length.
Conquer procrastination by being kind to yourself
Don’t give yourself a hard time when you find yourself procrastinating. It’s a waste of your mental energy, it won’t make you feel good about yourself and you’ll have less resolve to control the procrastination. Instead gather evidence of your ability to conquer procrastination: Remind yourself:
- of times when you have beaten procrastination and got tasks completed
- of the parts of your life where you are disciplined.
- that procrastination is an unhelpful habit which you are learning to replace by practising anti-procrastination techniques
- that your anti-procrastination is a work-in-progress, and ups and downs along the way are to be expected.