People procrastinate for many reasons, with so many stimuli in our world today, it is easy to get distracted in getting started with important tasks and even harder to get it done. If you find yourself agreeing to this, don’t let it make you feel bad. Procrastination is one of the things even the most responsible people fall prey to when completing a task at hand. In a book by Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Equation, 95% of people are likely to procrastinate.
But knowing this doesn’t mean that putting off getting things done is okay or is something you cannot avoid altogether. After all, procrastination is a bad habit that keeps you from accomplishing an important goal and living a successful, stress-free life.
If you want to get better at overcoming procrastination, reading this article is already the first step in your goal to get things done. To add to that, we have listed the 10 most powerful techniques to help you get started, work better, and increase your productivity.
How to Overcome Procrastination Through Emotional Response
Neurologically, procrastination is not something you purposely want to do — it’s the result of the emotional part of your brain, overriding the more logical part of your brain.
- Knowing Your Triggers – In the book Solving the Procrastination Puzzle, a study by Tim Pychyl, research shows that the more you feel like a task is uninteresting, the more likely you are to avoid those tasks. Pychyl made a list of seven triggers that might make you want to procrastinate on tasks. Start and take a look at important work you need to get done but cannot seem to find a way to start on or even keep going. You might notice that most of these tasks make you feel like procrastinating when they are:
- Not self-rewarding
- In need of personal meaning
- Focus on the good aspects – The next time you encounter work that fits one of these procrastination triggers, a good way to overcome it is to try and find a way for self-motivation by first changing the way you look at a task. Take time for self-reflection and consider which of the seven procrastination triggers are set off by a task you’re dreading. Then, try and change your mind about the work at hand by thinking differently about the task – focus on the good aspects even though it’s something you truly dislike doing, making the idea of working on it more attractive.
- Free Your Mind and Give Yourself a Break – we tend to put things off when we feel overwhelmed by a task before we’ve had a chance to start it. Do yourself a favor by knowing your limits and respecting the time you need to achieve a goal. Can you work on a task for an hour? How about 30 minutes? Don’t pressure yourself too much to the point that it becomes debilitating. Another option to feel less frustrated is to have a mindfulness practice or engage in a few minutes of silent meditation to help you stop being overwhelmed.
Accomplish Tasks by Looking to the Future
When looking at ways to make sure you reach your goals, it’s best to always look at the benefits that you will lose when you procrastinate or gain when you complete a task.
- List the Negative Impact of Failure – get motivated by asking yourself, “What are the consequences of taking time away from activities I need to finish?” Try and visualize yourself 3-5 years from now. What is the direction you will find yourself in if you don’t succeed in your goals now? Is it a scenario you think you can live with? Will it have a negative impact on people’s perception of how responsible or reliable you are? Knowing the impact of the actions you take will definitely help put things into perspective.
- Look at the Rewards of Succeeding – another great tip that could help is to focus on the benefits of working on your goals. Set aside one minute and imagine how achieving a simple task will help in your emotional health. Use a pen and paper and list the positive effects that you will feel and physically gain once you have freed yourself from your triggers and completed a task. And, as a method to keep yourself motivated, post that piece of paper and read it every day, until you have reached your goal.
- Plan it out – after listing down your pros and cons, give structure to your goals by scheduling your activities and making an action plan. Remember though to space out your tasks in such a way that will allow you to achieve success. Use apps like Todoist for short-term tasks that could be connected to your calendar or long-term planning methods such as a Gantt chart which allows you to plan out your year in a visual manner. Templates of Gantt charts could be utilized offline through excel files or online through online apps like Teamgantt.
Stop Procrastinating Through Effective Time Management
- Use Less Time on Social Media – technology can be a gift or a curse, with many of our interactions transpiring over the internet, it’s easy to be distracted by our devices and succumb to procrastination. This is especially difficult when there are more interesting activities in contrast to your work. When you notice yourself using certain apps to procrastinate – disconnect. Instead, you can use applications like Forest to help yourself keep off your device, or Freedom which you can set to block off certain sites in order to help you focus. If you want to go a step further, take time away from the internet altogether by putting your phone in an inconvenient location or switching off your WiFi router. This may sound challenging, but by taking concrete action in removing digital distractions, you have no choice but to work on what is important.
- Break down large goals into smaller steps – most projects have tasks and subtasks that can make activities more difficult to achieve. Hack your brain into thinking that big tasks are achievable by doing the small parts first. For example, if you have a writing deadline, divide the work by creating an outline, reading up on it, or just simply writing the one paragraph to a report you have to finish. Then, come back at a later time to continue the rest. A useful tool is a method called the Pomodoro Technique by Francesco Cirillo. Studies show that you can’t get yourself focused after 25 minutes of work, so breaking up your workflow into shorter intervals gives you time to breathe and stay in focus. If you take it one step at a time, it’s not that daunting at all.
How to Overcome Procrastination by being Publicly Accountable
One of the best ways to achieve success is by letting others know of your intentions and finding an accountability partner to keep you on track. Declare your plan, as they say.
We, humans, are social animals, telling the world about your plans and getting an equally committed and driven partner will push you to reach your goals as you know that other people are watching and counting on you. In Asian Efficiency, we have our own Accountability Group through The Dojo (our online productivity community).
And lastly, Reward Yourself!
After a job well done, it is always a good idea to go celebrate your efforts. It doesn’t have to be a big gesture like taking an expensive holiday. You can simply go out to nature or get enough sleep. After all, overcoming procrastination is no easy feat! Always remember to affirm your achievements, whether it be big or small.
If you’ve found this helpful and you want to discover how you can become more productive, check out this free training we have coming up on the 3 Lifehacks of Highly Productive People.