Procrastination. We are all guilty of it. We all have, at some point in our lives, put off doing something that we knew had to be completed yesterday.
The most focused and resolute of people fall prey to procrastination, often citing flimsy excuses like I don’t feel like doing it. We eventually do get around to doing what we had put off, but often the mad scramble to make the deadline compromises the quality of the work we produce. The race to beat the clock is an added mental stress.
Procrastination is a productivity-sucking habit that builds up and takes hold of you before you realize how it jeopardizes yourplans. It just takes a later here and a tomorrow there to start the downward spiral.
Read on to learn how not to procrastinate.
1. Set goals, write them down, and place these in plain sight
When you set goals and write them down, you acknowledge to yourself that there is work to do. The "endowment effect" kicks in, and you feel compelled to honor your goals and see them through to completion. Place your list of goals somewhere in plain sight, so you always remember there is work to do.
Set time-bound goals. When there are deadlines to make, you will be less likely to procrastinate.
Also ensure that you set goals that align with your values and resonate with your deepest desires. When you are fired up, you will be raring to go and make things happen.
2. Create a sense of urgency and importance by visualizing the results of your goals
Deadlines are external influences that are easy to ignore. That’s because many of us are unable to fathom the future rewards of getting something done right now, so we tend to put off doing a job that we don’t consider quite as urgent or valuable in the present moment. This is the delay discounting effect at work.
Think of your goals as being valuable to you and those around you. Reflect on how fulfilling your dreams will help you become your best self, so you, in turn, can help others become their best versions. Visualize the results of fulfilling your dreams. Imagine how you feel and how the world around you transforms for the better when your dreams come true.
Realize that your goals cannot wait! This realization is a powerful internal motivator.
Internal motivators can convey the sense of urgency and importance more effectively than external influences and make us get up, shrug off procrastination, and get to work. Think of internal motivators as the call of your heart or the urges of your soul that don’t let you rest till you act on them.
3. Don’t fear failure
Fear of failure is a common reason for procrastinating. We don’t like to face failure. Fear of failing can make the stoutest person stop in his tracks and reconsider his moves. Sometimes the fear can be debilitating enough to even make him turn back.
Often the fear of failing stems from the fear of treading the unknown. Sometimes the fear of failure is socially conditioned in us. Kids grow up learning that failing is akin to losing, and the society isnot kind to losers.
You must realize that though some projects are challenging, you will never know how you will fare until you have gone the whole way, explored all the avenues, and executed all your strategies.
Cultivate a calm, ordered, and powerful mind to rise above conventions and see through veils, so you can focus only on the task at hand and remain optimistic. Meditating helps you strengthen your mental muscles and empowers you to recognize your fears for what they really are — temporary negative emotions that don’t have to dictate what you do or don’t to.
4. Break down complex tasks into smaller jobs
People tend to procrastinate when the task at hand seems challenging. According to research, mental effort feels strenuous, and we tend to attach a price to the energies we expend. We usually choose to work on an easier task than at a job that seems complex.
Often a fear of failure creeps in when the brain perceives challenges ahead. Take a look at your to-do list. Have you been procrastinating on it because the tasks look overwhelmingly complex? Breaking down the tasks into smaller jobs will make them seem more easily achievable and less fearsome.
5. Don’t strive for perfection; excellence is good enough
Perfection is the middle name of countless procrastinators. They will wait for the perfect time to begin work, when inspiration strikes or when they have all the resources in hand and feel they have amassed every piece of information they would ever need to get the job done. And then begins the agonizing process of creating the perfect product or delivering the perfect service. They keep chipping away at and polishing their work—tweaking this, reordering that, and then, smashing everything to pieces to begin anew.
Yes, striving to be perfect can breed procrastination. And somewhere deep within the perfectionist procrastinators resides the fear of failure. These people fear that turning in a piece of less-than-perfect work is akin to failing at it.
Are you one of these perfection-obsessed people?
You must realize that perfection is an illusion because the mere concept is subjective. What is perfect to one person may seem shoddy to another. The strategy that worked for one problem may fail to produce results for the same problem at another time and another place.
What matters is excellence. Give everything you do your best shot. Excellence is enough to bring in positive results.
6. Start with a simple task and get it done
Successful people get things done. Nobody has ever achieved anything worthwhile by not doing anything. So get started. Start. Even if you feel unsure, underprepared, indifferent, bored, or not in the mood.
Here’s the trick. Start with a simple task to get into the groove. Doing this one task will yank you out of the rut and set the tempo. Besides, ticking off even one item on your to-do list feels empowering. You feel confident about tackling the next task.
7. Do some task relevant to your goals, however minute, every day
You have set goals, and you leave no stone unturned to stick to them. But sometimes life happens and plans get derailed. For instance, you have planned to work on a job for half the day. Then a crisis erupts at another front, and you have to drop everything and rush to put out a fire. When you can finally get back to your job, it is already afternoon. You have just about an hour left to do your own work, and there is no way you can complete it within this time what you had originally intended to accomplish.
What will you do?
Will you try to squeeze in as much work as you can within that hour, or give up and convince yourself that you couldn’t have made much headway into your work in an hour? Don’t give up.
Don’t let the day go by without doing something, even if it is a wee job, which is relevant to your goals. Every little task you do adds to your volume of work and takes you closer to your goals. The hour you spend today working on a relevant task reduces the time you need to complete the whole project.
Shift your perspective of time. Ditch the “all-or-nothing” approach to working, and utilize every chunk of time to do some task, miniscule it may be. This ensures work does not pile up and overwhelm you. You may be stretched too thin, but doing something every day for yourself and your goals, gives you the feeling of being in control of your life. You feel hopeful and optimistic.
8. Reduce distractions
Distractions. They are everywhere. They blink and beep on your phone. They pop up on the websites you visit. They dance on the television screen or scream at you from the radio. They snap your focus and make you squander precious time. Reduce distractions.
Ensure that you check emails only at specific times during the day. Switch off social media notifications when you work. Be assured that the world will continue to spin even if you don’t check the news during the day.
But reducing distractions is not just about locking away your phone or disabling every notification on your computer. These ploys are no good if you continue to obsess over the messages lying unread in your inbox or keep wondering what your friends are up to on Facebook. Self-binding methods work, but you still need to learn to tame your mind.
Sharpen your focus with meditation. Create a daily meditation ritual to practice being mindful of the present moment.
9. Reward yourself for every job you complete
Rewards work almost always. If reaching your goals is still some time away, create smaller milestones and celebrate your little successes. Reward yourself with treats like taking a day off from work or permitting yourself to splurge at your favorite store. This practice boosts your self-confidence and gives you something to look forward to as you sweat, toil, and scramble towards your goals. It also feels empowering when you realize you are in control of your life’s journey; after all, you set your own goals, you create the milestones, and you decide when it is time to celebrate.
10. Be around achievers
Find company that inspires you. Be around successful people who have reached where they are now with focus, determination, and hard work. These people will not only help you up your mind game but also teach you valuable productivity hacks to beat procrastination. Be around the achievers and watch how they work, what they think, and what they do to keep themselves focused on their goals.
Procrastination is a mental struggle. People procrastinate because they give in to distractions. They tend to put off working on unpleasant or complex tasks because they lack the mental clarity to figure out the results they could reap in the future. They let negative emotions like fear dominate them. You have to train your mind not to succumb to procrastination. Meditating daily helps you cultivate focus, reveal insights, achieve clarity of purpose, and visualize the YOU you want to be.
The Meditable app lets you create customized guided meditation sessions where you can focus on tweaking one area of your mind at a time. Reflect on your heart’s desires before you set goals. See in your mind’s eye how you are busting distractions and being productive. Program your mind to become a doer, not a procrastinator.