5 Strategies I'm Using To Beat Procrastination
How the child of two hardcore task masters became a world class procrastinator, I’ll never know. But the facts are the facts, and although my parents tried with the force of 1,000 Type-A soldiers to instill in me the skill of efficient time use, it fell on distracted ears that were listening to the voices that insisted I simply, “do it later.”
For me, procrastination has been a delightful short term distraction that ultimately creates more long term problems. Problems like: late fees, stress, subpar work, disappointment, blame, resentment, and in one very specific case, an angry raging yeast infection. (Insert PSA for returning the four missed calls from your gynecologist BEFORE you leave on vacation instead of putting it off until you get back.)
Over the years I’ve experienced these blissful states of productivity where I am getting shit done like the chore-crushing child my parents always dreamed of, but I have never been able to sustain the momentum for long. Inevitably, I slink right back to the rabbit holes I prefer to frequent and convince myself that all my to-do’s will be just fine remaining in the queue for one more day.
But there (recently) came a day when I decided I didn’t want to sabotage myself like this any longer. I was weary of my ways and ready to change. So I searched for strategies I could arm myself with when my knee-jerk reaction to swipe through feeds, read just “one more chapter,” or research the best electric kettles kicked in when it was time to get down to business. Here’s what’s working for me.
It Doesn’t Take As Long As You Think
Most often you put things off because you think it will take up too much of your precious time. Time that you could use catching up on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or staring out the window while you eat caramel-filled chocolates. But most of the tasks we dread are over faster than an episode of Mrs. Maisel and we feel exponentially better when we complete them.
Case in point: TSA Pre Check. Friends, I put off my appointment to complete the Pre Check process for two — yes two! — years. That works out to roughly 18 flights that I slogged through the regs security; taking off shoes, removing laptops, etc, when I could have just cruised through Pre Check like a boss. And you know how much of my beloved time my appointment stole from my life? Ten minutes. That’s all. So when I find myself wanting to put off a task I remind myself that it’s not going to take as much time as I think and it helps me get on with completing it.
Prioritize Your Top Three
Before going to bed at night, write down the three most important tasks you need to take care of tomorrow. That way when you start you day in the morning, your plan of attack is ready and waiting for you to, well, attack!
Focus On The Pay Off
For me, the biggest pay off of completing a task is the freedom I gain knowing it’s done. With it no longer haunting my list, I am free to do something I want with the time I have left. This is how I approach tidying up my kitchen: I remind myself that loading the dishwasher and wiping the counters doesn’t take as long as I think and when I’m done I have a clean kitchen and time to sit and read my book. That’s a payoff that’s a twofer!
Aim For Half
When I have a really daunting and dreadful undertaking, I aim for completing just half of it right then. Sometimes getting started is the hardest part and making a dent in larger projects allows you to see the light at the end of the garage organizing. Surprisingly, once I start a task that I first believed would actually be my last, because doing it would most certainly make me drop dead, not only do I realize I am going to live, I typically get more done than half.
Compare & Contrast Feelings
If you’re really having trouble getting motivated to let your inner busy bee out of the hive, use your emotions as fuel. Connect with the way you will feel when you’re done. Will you feel relief? Happiness? Satisfaction? Imagine how glorious it will feel.
Then think about how you feel when you continue to procrastinate. Does it invoke dread? Boredom? Avoidance? Now ask yourself which way you’d rather feel, because you do have a choice. And I hope you choose to feel a way that adds to your life rather than takes away from it.