Procrastination – it’s something a lot of us have experienced, or will experience, in our life. We sit down, we know we have something to do, yet somehow we end up staring into space, looking at cat pictures online, or googling “Why is a hamburger called a hamburger?” That’s part of life, nothing to be done about it, right?

… Wrong! Procrastination is something that we can overcome. Rather easily too. Have a read of these ten tips to overcoming procrastination, even though the reading of this list is probably an act of procrastination anyway, to find out how we can overcome it and become the productive person we know we are deep inside!

1 – Stop making excuses!

The number one cause of procrastinating is us, that’s an undeniable fact. We’re the ones that allow it to occur. If we take away the using of excuses, all we’re left with is actually getting on with doing what we’re supposed to be doing. That’s easy to say, but how do we do it? … Awareness!

If we know that the excuses we’re making are simply that, excuses, then they’re no longer effective. It’s like lying to ourselves – it can only ever go on for as long as we’re believing the lie. As soon as we’ve sat down and gone, “Okay, I’m lying to myself.” It no longer works, because we know better. Our awareness contradicts it.

Once a light has been shed on the excuses, we’ll find that eventually the excuses no longer work. Of course, this is an on-going process. Awareness is something that needs to be built up, and continually practiced, for it to have any long-lasting effect. So, stop making those excuses and go make it happen.

2 – Make a plan!

For those who procrastinate a lot, a plan can be a total lifesaver. Having a solid action plan of what’s done, and what needs to be done, will vastly improve the likelihood of it getting done. Not only will it cut out the ability to make excuses of not knowing what to do, but it’ll also reduce the risk of repeating ourselves over and over.

Like the way a bookmark stops a reader from reading the same page over and over, whenever they pick a book back up after putting it down. We’ll know where we’re standing with the task at hand, and we’ll be able to act effectively upon it as a result. Plus, if we make the plan comprehensive enough, we’ll feel like we’re achieving far more than we actually are – every time we check something off the list. (That’s a plus, right?)

Not to mention that a plan will only take a few moments to draw up. It’s not a big, or tough, task – we literally just write down what needs to be done and keep breaking that list into smaller tasks. Just don’t allow the plan itself to become a deviation from the task at hand. It’s all well and good having a comprehensive plan, but if it took us a day to draw it up – it was probably an act of procrastination in itself!

3 – Think objectively!

Much like making a plan, seeing the task at hand objectively will allow for a more efficient approach. What’s meant by that? Instead of idly dreaming about the task being done – think objectively and critically about how to go about getting it done. Whilst visualisation is a neat tool to use when it comes to completing tasks, visulisation itself will not actually get the task done – action will!

There is a fine line between contemplating how to go about it, and procrastinating. We don’t want to be on the procrastinating side. Find a happy medium between thinking and doing, and we will thank ourselves immensely in the future. There’s only so much we can conceptualise in our head, anyway – so don’t worry if the idea is not completely there before taking the first step. You’ll be surprised at how it seem to flow once you’ve begun.

There is no hard and fast rule to getting things done, either. So, if you find yourself trying to actively do more and break out of thinking, and then feel lost on where you’re heading – take some time out to think it through. Again, it comes back to finding the balance that works for ourselves.

4 – Stop waiting for the perfect moment!

If we all sat about waiting for the perfect moment for something to get done, nothing would get done. It’s as simple as that. There is no perfect moment. There is only ever this moment. So, consider this your call to action. Go, get it done. (No, not really – finish reading this first.)

There are times that we’re better suited to being productive, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t be productive outside of those times. If we know we work more optimally at certain times, we can try getting it done in those times to begin off with, but we should never limit ourselves to those times. If we restrict our work to certain hours of the day, we’re limiting our own efficiency – for the procrastinator, this is never a favorable thing.

We’ve got to take the moment as it comes, and really act on that inspiration when it arises. If we feel like we should be getting something done, we should act on that feeling. If we can get into the habit of acting on that feeling, we’re going to notice how much more productive we become as a result.

5 – Ensure you give yourself a break

Working is great, but taking a proper break is equally as important. The common procrastinator often thinks they’re giving themselves a break, but in actuality – very rarely are they. A break is a time away from both doing the work AND thinking about the work, so these ‘breaks,’ where the thought of what needs to get done never ceases, do not help us. Not at all. In fact, if anything, they just worsen the problem, because they just stress us out, more than we need to be, about the task at hand.

Finding resolution from this is straightforward. We create work time, and we create break time to go along with it. If we can dedicate an amount of time to working, knowing that we’ve got a dedicated amount of time for a break upcoming – we’re going to work better AND relax better. The task at hand won’t be nagging at the back of our head, because we know it’s getting done – allowing us to enjoy our break time far much more than before.

Balance is an essential key to this one, because working ourselves into the ground is just as bad as getting absolutely nothing done. Let work time be work time, and let break time be break time. When it’s break time, we take a break – we put down all the work stuff. It doesn’t need to be thought about at that time. We earned our break. The same goes for work time, when we’re working – we give our focus to the work.

6 – Stop Multitasking

Multitasking is a killer, for both quality and efficiency. Whoever told you that doing more than one thing at a time was an efficient method was lying to you. Splitting our focus does not help us work better. If it did, that social media browsing we did whilst writing our schoolwork would’ve improved the quality – which we all know really is not the case at all.

Whilst multitasking is a killer, productive procrastination doesn’t have to be. If we feel unmotivated to do the task that needs doing, we can try instead filling the time with other little jobs that we also know need to be done. For example, if we need to write a report, and our bedroom is also messy… If we cannot be bothered to do the report, we could try spending some time tidying our room. Not only are we using our time efficiently, but a more organised environment has also been proven to help organise the mind!

So, the lesson here is simple. If we’re going to do something, give it our entire focus or move on to something else. There’s no point giving it a fraction of our focus, because it’ll just drag on, leaving us unmotivated and doing an abysmal job of it. Our time could be better spent doing other things.

7 – Stop second guessing yourself!

If we’ve analysed the situation, thought about how to go about it, and then made a plan – we should follow the plan! There is no need to second guess ourselves, unless we really, overwhelmingly, feel that our approach needs to be revised. Otherwise we’ll be left in a situation where we’re continually overthinking what it is we’re meant to be doing, and much like the above point – we’ll get nothing done as a result.

If we’ve dedicated the time, effort and energy into making a plan – it’s probably a good one. The desire to constantly tweak the plan or idea will only ever build the more we succumb to it. We need to be the doer, and to do that – it’s essential to have confidence in our ideas of how to get it done. The more we get into the habit of sticking to our guns when we’ve got a solid idea down, the better we’ll get at it, and the more we’ll get done as a result too.

This is a progressive thing. Confidence takes time to build, and that’s understandable, but just keep this in mind when we are needlessly second guessing ourselves, and instead do it anyway. Breaking this habit will reflect out into our lives in multiple ways, and no doubt we’ll feel better as a result of it. We all just need to trust in ourselves!

8 – Deadlines

Deadlines are an excellent tool, provided we give ourselves enough time to actually do the task. The perfect deadline is one that isn’t too close that it causes panic, but not so far that it leaves we’ve the idea that, “eh, I can do it another day.” Finding that happy medium can often be a bit of trial and error, but sticking to the deadline regardless will enable us to become far more efficient doers!

The idea is that setting a finish line makes the journey to said finish line a lot more bearable, because we know – if we stick to our deadline, the worry of the task ends on that day. Getting it done… That’s another story, but it’s a motivation tactic. It has to be coupled with other techniques, to ensure the work gets done and not just thought about.

The best part of practicing deadlines on our own time is that – when it comes to project deadlines for an employer or school, we’ll know how to handle it. We’ll have been working to a deadline that didn’t even necessarily had to have been met, so working to one that does need to met? It just makes it that much easier!

9 – Eliminate distractions!

This one is as uncomplicated as it comes… We’ve got to stop giving ourselves the opportunity to procrastinate. It’s a lot easier than it sounds, too. Turn off the television, close down all the social media and put our phones on “Do not disturb” mode. Then we simply sit ourselves down in front of the task we need to get done, and watch how we can miraculously get the task done.

When we take away the ease of not doing the task at hand, the task at hand actually becomes a lot easier. Likely because we’re focusing on it, and not focusing on what else it is we could be doing. Many people often find that once they dedicate a time to concentrate, they finish in a fraction of the time they would’ve done, had they been constantly flicking back and forth between doing it; thus giving them even more time to do what they want to be doing!

Though, again, it can be healthy for us to have something else to lift our mood whilst you do the task. Tools like music, if it’s played subtly, can actually help us get through the task in better spirits. The thing to watch out for here is allowing it to become distractive. If we’re a hardcore procrastinator, it’s probably best to just do it without anything – until we’re more in control of our focus.

10 – Pomodoro Technique

This one is a little more sciencey, as opposed to the rest. The idea behind it is rather easy to grasp though; frequent breaks will improve the mental agility of the individual. Whilst it’s not an entirely proven – in scientific terms, the empirical evidence speaks for itself. People say it works, and if it works for them – well, it could work for us too.

So, how does one go about using this technique? Lucky for us, it’s very basic and can be picked up by anyone with a timer. The official documentation of it breaks it down into five steps:

  • Decide what needs to be done.
  • Set the timer for 25 minutes.
  • Work on the task until the timer is up. (No clock-watching, this won’t help you.)
  • Take a break, for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • After four sessions, take a longer break. Anywhere between 15 minutes and 30.
  • Repeat this until the task is complete. Hurray!

That’s really all there is to this one. Let us know how it goes for you.

References:

  1. http://www.magforwomen.com/how-does-good-planning-help-you-get-success/
  2. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-wise/201209/the-true-cost-multi-tasking
  3. http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/old-adage-tidy-house-tidy-mind-is-true-claims-new-survey-2206769.html
  4. http://smallbusiness.chron.com/benefits-deadlines-projects-44815.html
  5. http://baomee.info/pdf/technique/1.pdf