This article is one of a series, looking at procrastination, why it happens and what we can do to beat it.
I am going to be giving you some helpful procrastination-beating advice about using to-do lists, prioritising, goal setting and breaking down tasks as well as using time constraints, incentives and consequences to assist you in forging ahead and beating the overwhelm that comes from having a lot to do!
These tips are mainly for work-based scenarios from my point of view but increasing our productivity and avoiding procrastination can be helpful in every area of our lives so I will include tips and examples that can cross over to work-life, running a home, looking after children and anything else that requires us to complete tasks in a set period of time (isn’t that nearly all of life??)
So firstly, what the heck is procrastination and why on earth do we do it? Is there something wrong with me? Am I the only one?
Well frankly (and thankfully) the answer to those last two questions is NO! (phew). Procrastination in the Google dictionary is simply listed:
- the action of delaying or postponing something.“your first tip is to avoid procrastination”
synonyms: dithering, delaying tactics, dilatoriness, stalling, temporizing, hesitation, vacillation,
Procrastination is a simple term to explain a well-known and deep problem that is a part of human nature. By definition, humans live in the ‘here and now and the things that are really good for us often come to fruition long in the future (such as eating healthily to prevent heart disease).
Everybody has a future-related plan.
- I will save for our retirement – IN THE FUTURE
- I will exercise IN THE FUTURE
- I will give up junk food – IN THE FUTURE
- I will write a book – IN THE FUTURE
But today, I just don’t feel like it.
- TODAY – I am too busy
- TODAY – it is too hot/cold
- TODAY – The chocolate cake is too tempting
Dani Ariely says that procrastination is about a problem that we are simply not designed to think about in the long term.
Why would nature even need us to think about what might happen in 30, 50 or even 70 year’s time?
The present is very alluring and powerful. It is in our nature not to think about the long-term consequences. The steps we can take now may feel incredibly painful, so often we just dont do them.
But it’s not just nature that creates the need to procrastinate. We often pile the pressure onto ourselves as well.
The modern world is moving at an ever-faster rate, more and more information becoming available at the tips of our fingers, constantly streaming over and over into our lives and homes.
With all of this plus the need to perform better and better, it can be easy for us to feel we need to be superheroes or to do it all at once!
Seemingly ever-lasting to-do lists and huge, time-heavy tasks can make us feel sick to our cores and for some of us even throw in the towel altogether.
So before you read the series of tips my first advice to help with the overwhelm and the fact that life is just not simple anymore is this:
- When you are preparing to start a busy day, try and start the day well.
- Learn how to meditate – and no, I don’t mean necessarily sitting cross-legged on a lily pad saying ‘ohm’ (unless that’s your thing then be my guest). I always have a busy morning because I am a single mummy, so my day starts with an 8-year-old bounding into my room and jumping in for a cuddle. I am also not very good at being an early-riser (I, personally am more of a night-owl) so therefore straight after cuddle-time, we tend to both go straight downstairs. The dog is usually whining for a wee in the garden, the boy is hungry and I have a lot to do (despite being a good ‘prepper’) to get breakfast done, child clothed and everyone out the door on time So ‘meditating first thing in the morning’ whilst sage advice indeed, simply ‘ain’t gonna work for this girly! I need another way. You can find out more about how I meditate (It’s unconventional) HERE.
- Remove any distractions. Delete Facebook from your phone or close the tab if you are on a browser. In fact, remove any and all things open on your computer except for those absolutely necessary to the task at hand. Turn off your phone or put it on silent for a while. Put a big sign on your door saying ‘Do Not Disturb’ if you must. Clear the way for some task-orientated success!
- Learn to set goals (with the help of an addict)
- Prioritise your To-To list(s) using the ABC technique.
- Break down your regular tasks using the ‘Tiny Tiny Task Technique’
- Set up a timer ready for some Pomodoro Magic!
- Creates your work in a draft form first.
- Tell a friend and set a time for when you will check-in (accountability)
- Create a lovely reward for yourself for a job well done when you complete the task(s) at hand.
Well done – you are now on your way to beating the ever-problematic ‘Procrastination Monster’!!!