Procrastination: A postponement, often with the sense of deferring though indecision, when early action would have been preferable.Oxford Dictionary
Timothy Pychyl points out that “all procrastination is delay, but not all delay is procrastination.”
We don’t really need anyone to tell us when we’re procrastinating, you can feel it in your gut; that niggling thought that tells you that you would have been better off doing that thing at that moment instead of putting it off. Anything can be procrastinated including school work, exercise, and even rest (I’m guilty of this!).
It is my opinion that one should not take pride in the fact that they work without rest. Your body needs good care and that includes rest. While such a work ethic is commendable (by some people’s standards) and likely to take one far in the corporate world, it brings only harm as the body gets worn out.
On the opposite end of this spectrum, not getting any work done is not doing you any favors either.
Yes, you have nailed the resting bit.
But you just cannot seem to get out of rest mode long enough to get work done! If you are anything like me, you may have a blend of both. This article is for us; may our quest be successful.
Allow me to dive right into it:
#1. Time Blocking
Like most of the things that lead to mind-blowing success, this seems a tad mundane. It really is that simple. If you have a paper due in 2 weeks, gauge how much time it will take for you to complete it well and divide that time out into days; or example, 2 hours per day for 10 days. Then affix an actual time when you will sit down and get the work done; something along the lines of 9-11 am or 9-10 am then a nap and 2-3 pm. It does not matter how you break down the hours, just as long as you get those 2 hours in.
For my less time-inclined friends, divide it into daily tasks.
If there is a book you ought to have finished reading in time for a book club meeting, choose a certain number of pages or chapters to read every day and make sure you read them no matter what. This works for anything and everything we control in life; rest, exercise, career, faith, relationships… name it. I would advise creating time blocks for the important things in your life as you organize your day.
You can mix and match the task/time breakdown depending on what you prefer but you cannot ignore them altogether.
As a recovering workaholic, I committed to at least 2 hours of rest/ pleasure per day (not hours of sleep) and a whole day off per week. No matter how many things I have going, I spend these times doing things that I enjoy that are not considered work. I am now getting the hang of it and find it easier to set aside my work and rest when I need to.
Set aside time for yourself where you either work out or do a self-care routine or whatever it is that you do to show yourself, love. Then make sure that you have set aside time for relationships with family or friends. And, finally, the work schedule which can also be further segmented into time blocks depending on what you need to accomplish.
It is important for this to be customized to you.
If you cannot go beyond 45 minutes of productive work, then schedule your time blocks for just that and rest for an appropriate amount of time between the blocks. This will ensure maximum productivity but keep you sane and happy at the same time.
#2. Try the 2-minute rule.
I stumbled upon the 2-minute rule in a YouTube video by Alux. It states that when you do not feel like doing something, do it for at least 2 minutes then stop. 2 minutes…only 120 seconds. It is a start. This eventually makes your brain shift into the ‘just do it now’ mentality that will eventually have you performing your tasks when you said you would with minimal effort.
This too is not set in stone.
You can make it the 5-minute rule or the 10-minute rule if you wish. When I was recovering from surgery, I knew I needed to get some exercise in lest I get too far off track for my fitness goals. So, I decided to do a 10-minute workout every day for 30 days. Whenever I did not feel like it, I would say to myself, “It’s only 10 minutes and you’re through!” That is how I was able to continue the habit I had so painstakingly built.
Just 10 minutes.
Even now, when I feel a bout of procrastination coming on, I do a 10-minute workout and feel really great about myself. This is also a great way to start working out or reading or writing or whatever it is that you have been putting off because it seemed so daunting.
#3. A little at a time
For fear of this getting lost in the time blocking tip above, I will write it here, on its own. Every task can be broken down into bite-sized chunks that are easier to swallow. When the work seems doable, you are more inclined to do it than when it is a boatload.
Don’t run the entire 5 kilometers on the first day! Chances are you will be too sore tomorrow to do it again. Run 100 meters at first, then as you get used to it, move it up to 300 meters and keep doing that until you have achieved the 5K.
I did this for my school work during this lockdown period. Everything was glaring at me so I shut my eyes and pretended the assignments had gone away (pretty, dumb right?!).
Anyway, when I made the jaw-dropping discovery that avoiding the work did not make it go away, I decided to take it one little bit at a time. I organized the entire workload into course units and those course units into their respective assignments. Next was breaking down those assignments into tasks that would not be difficult for me to complete in 1 hour. As I write this, I have completed the most difficult (they seemed difficult anyway) assignments and am now cruising with the easier ones. If I had not broken them down, I’d never have started.
Go on, try it out.
Chop up your assignment(s) into bite-sized pieces and get them done and out of the way. Do not forget to consider deadlines and timelines in your breakdown especially for career work or school work.
#4. Stop owning procrastination
I still cannot wrap my mind around the fact that someone would willingly call themselves lazy. The fact is, I do not understand why they say it but I still vehemently argue against anyone ever saying it about themselves, to someone else, or even thinking it.
It is little wonder that procrastination is a problem.
People wear it like a blue ribbon they won at the town fair, occasionally puffing their chests out in case a passer-by did not notice it. If your mind had adopted procrastination and laziness as the norm, then the only way to change it is to create a new normal. Build a habit of not procrastinating. Speak out against procrastination by affirming yourself. Do not even think of yourself as a procrastinator (no matter how bad you still got it). It is borderline denial, I know, but it is such that you can rewrite a new program in your brain. Denying it while still doing nothing won’t get you anywhere. Try out the 3 previous tips to build an anti-procrastination habit!
#5. Linear thinking
Finally, there is a little something I like to call linear thinking. Simply put, focus on the task you are doing right now. Do not allow your mind to wander to the mountain of work you still have left to do (or to social media).
Be in the moment.
Pour 101% of your time and energy into that task at that scheduled time and complete it (either the task or the duration you set for it) then put it away and out of mind. An occasional idea about how to improve the work might come in, these are welcome.
But worrying about what you are going to do in your arithmetic assignment at 3 pm should not steal time from the movie you are watching during your rest time. This makes resting ineffective and actually leaves you feeling tired so next time you choose not to rest and then you keep putting it off until you burn out.
This is true for any aspect of your life.
If you have been treated to a birthday dinner, focus on that. If you are filing tax returns for the next 2 hours, do that and quit thinking about the trip to the dry cleaners. Thinking about it won’t save you from having to pick it up!
As you focus on that single task before you, you become more effective and can finish it well in time (or even in less time). Then you move on to the next and do the same. Soon, the seemingly endless pile of tasks will dwindle to nothing and you will feel good about completing them and doing them really well.
This is how I beat procrastination.
There may be more ways that these on how to do it. If you have anything to add, please leave it in the comments. Please subscribe and help me get to 1000 subscribers.
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Until next time,