Most of us know that, in the long run, procrastination makes life more difficult, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to stop doing it. Unfortunately, most advice available about procrastination simply tells us that we shouldn’t do it. It’s much more difficult to find practical tips to end procrastination. As a veteran (and reformed) procrastinator, I’ve learned a few tricks for overcoming procrastination and here are the ten best:
Do Unpleasant Tasks First
Much procrastination comes from delaying boring, mundane, or even frightening tasks. If you perform these tasks before other tasks, though, you have much less time to build a list of reasons not to do them or a list of distractions from them. Unpleasant tasks usually just get worse the longer you wait, and reminding yourself that delaying the task won’t make it go away can help you to just do it. You need to have an academic diary so you will be more organized at work an in your personal life.
Get More Organized
Some of us have so much to do that we don’t even know where to begin, so we end up doing nothing. Investing ten to fifteen minutes a day to plan the next day, and planning your week in advance, can help you take a realistic look at how you’re spending your time. If you plan tasks in advance you’ll have a sense of accomplishment that can help minimize the desire to procrastinate.
Break Tasks Into Manageable Chunks
Many tasks that tend to breed procrastination are large tasks that have several components. Rather than writing, “get wisdom teeth removed” or, “publish an article” on your to-do list, break your task down into manageable pieces. If you accomplish one small step toward your goal every day (or week, or month) you’ll be inspired to keep going and won’t beat yourself up over failure, which can often lead to procrastination.
Give Up On Perfectionism
Some of us tend to procrastinate because we’re afraid of failure or don’t believe we’re ready to perform a task perfectly. The truth, however, is that performing a task imperfectly is generally better than not performing it at all. You can always go back and improve upon your work later. Give up on a desire to make every attempt at every goal perfect, and simply make some small attempt each day.
Our brain responds well to rewards, and being rewarded for an unpleasant task can make it easier to do it next time. Buy yourself an extra dessert, go out to lunch with a friend, or invest in a new piece of clothing as a reward for completing an unpleasant task. You should remember to avoid giving yourself these rewards until you have completed the task!
Do the Little Tasks First
Sometimes the smallest tasks in the day are the ones that add up-going to the bank, dropping off the dry cleaning, and walking the dog. Carve out an hour each day to accomplish as many small tasks as you can, and the sense of accomplishment will likely compel you to take on larger tasks and feel better about how you’re spending your time.
Schedule Regular Tasks
We all have things we have to do on a regular basis, like meeting with clients, going to the grocery store, or paying bills. Consider scheduling days for these recurring tasks. Knowing the tasks are already scheduled can help alleviate stress, and getting into the habit of performing these tasks at regular intervals can help curb procrastination.
Taking Action Rarely Makes Things Worse
Remember that taking action on something rarely makes something worse. If, for example, your boss is upset with you, talking to her about it doesn’t change things; it only makes you aware that she is upset with you. Many of us operate under the delusion that what we don’t know about and avoid can’t hurt us, but the world is happening whether or not you participate in it. Your world is more likely to be better if you take action rather than avoid things!
Know Your Body
We all have times of the day during which we’re more productive, and working against your own circadian rhythms typically only makes procrastination worse. Rather than try to adopt yourself to your tasks, adopt your tasks to the way you naturally do things. In my case, I’m a night owl, and no matter how many times I have tried, I just can’t be productive in the morning. I’ve capitalized on this by simply giving in and sleeping in when I have the chance and then taking advantage of my insomnia to get things done. There’s nothing wrong with completing tasks at strange times,and knowing when you are most likely to complete tasks well can help you better plan your day and your time.
Nourish Your Body
Hunger and dehydration can contribute to procrastination, and sometimes we’re so hungry and dehydrated that we don’t even notice! Take time to drink water and eat good meals and you may find yourself procrastinating less frequently.