We need to talk about procrastination. Yes, again. I’ve written about it before, but seeing as it’s basically a silent epidemic, we need to talk about it some more. My past two weeks were packed to the brim with obligations and deadlines, and instead of making me more efficient out of necessity, the stress morphed me into a stage five procrastinator. I spent several late nights staring at blank documents that were supposed to be filled with my words, feeling more and more anxious as time flew by. As one is wont to do when avoiding reality, I put off my work even longer by doing some heavy thinking and reading about procrastination.
I know procrastinating can sometimes feel like an inescapable trap of idleness, as if no matter how much you want to get started on your work, you just can’t – and that really sucks in a world where we’re so easily tempted to define our worth by how productive we are. The self-hatred that then builds on top of that frustration and culminates into a massive misery vortex that sucks all the energy out of you and – surprise – makes it even harder to accomplish anything. But there is a way out! At least, there are small steps forward, if nothing else. In light of that, here are even more tips to keep the procrastination monster at bay and live your life in full swing.
1. Give yourself points
This idea came from a clever commenter on my last procrastination post, who suggested assigning points to each task on your to-do list and adding up what you’ve accomplished at the end of each day. Redeem those points for nights out or treats!
2. Chill out with the anxiety
Stress begets more stress, and once you acknowledge that you’re behind on your work from procrastinating, is easy to stress spiral into total paralysis. Do whatever you need to do to stop that from happening. A good way to stop such circular thoughts is with a repetitive activity, like knitting, that can serve as a go-to when you’re feeling overwhelmed to stop a stress snowball in its tracks. The familiarity of it can calm your thoughts and either get you back to the task at hand or help you calm down. Another step is to get up from your desk and take a short break, like a walk around the blog.
3. Dangle your dreams in front of you like a carrot
Write the end goal of your work (or something you’re looking forward to like a sweet vacation) on a post-it note on the wall behind your laptop or over your desk, so it can drive you to work harder and get your work done faster. It may seem obvious, but sometimes it’s hard to remember that there is a reward for slogging through something you don’t want to do.
4. Get right with your sleep habits
I take naps to procrastinate. It’s ridiculous and also never works, because when I wake up and realize that I still have a ton of work ahead of me, all I want to do is sleep more. Find a sleeping pattern that works for you and become very consistent in when you wake up and go to sleep. This will allow you to view sleeping as what it is (a time for restoration) rather than a hobby, and makes it harder to deviate for emotionally-fueled nap breaks (or, on the other hand, all-nighters). Separate your sleeping space from your work space, even if they’re all in the same room. Cover your bed with something so you can’t access it or hang something between your bed and your desk. It’s hard to get into work mode when your bed is within your line of vision, silently calling out to you.
5. Do a favor to future you
When you start seeing your future self as a living, breathing person who is directly impacted by your every move, it’s easier to maintain willpower. After all, that person is still you, and you will be the one suffering for your current choice to put off obligations or hard work. Think of all the times your past self screwed over your future self – doesn’t that sting? If past you had started working out six months ago, or hadn’t made those pesky credit card charges, or had actually put a thing or two into their savings account, your life may be a lot easier right now. Imagine how happy your future self will be when they see what positive things you’ve done! Even small actions here and there add up to a lot over time. You’re planting seeds for your longterm happiness, and that’s a great motivator.
6. Get started ahead of time
I’ve mentioned breaking big tasks into small pieces before, but an especially helpful way to break things up is to do the first ten-fifteen minutes of work on something (especially basic prep work that doesn’t involve the mental heavy lifting) the day before you plan to finish the project. The hardest thing to do is get started on something, especially when getting started involves gathering lots of information to lay a groundwork before having to switch gears into a totally different headspace to finish the project. If you’ve already done those persnickety tasks, the hardest part (simply starting) is already out of the way when you sit down for the long haul of work, and you now have the benefit of not starting from scratch, even if you only did a few minutes of work the day before. That makes it so much easier to get going.
7. Remember that you only need willpower for some of the work
Usually, hard work on a task ultimately reaches a point where you’re so close to the high of accomplishment that you don’t have to force yourself anymore. Things start to glide along to the finish line on their own. When you’re first getting started, remind yourself of this and of the fact that you won’t need to expend the gargantuan energy it takes to start on the whole project.
8. Strive for a better work/life balance
This one warrants several posts of its own, but it’s worth noting that while procrastination has many sources, a big one is a feeling of burnout or disconnection with the work you’re doing. We all have to do things we don’t want to do now and then, but if every task feels like pulling teeth, it can help to find a better balance, seek out work you genuinely enjoy, and look for ways to better disengage between intense work sessions. This can be lifelong process, but it’s a great priority to keep in mind! Baby steps make a difference!
Original by: Claire Hannum