Up until a few years ago, I was the queen of procrastination. If I needed to accomplish something I just left it for the next day. And the next day I did the same. I finished all my tasks at the last minute, and sometimes I never even accomplished them. This behavior created a lot of frustration and stress in my life.
When I realized that procrastination was a real problem for me, I looked for some studies to learn more about it. Step by step I was able to learn how to overcome this pattern. I also started to feel that I’m much more efficient with my tasks.
I truly feel that I’ve progressed a lot, but in the midst of quarantine I started to fall back into procrastination. These are some tips for both myself and anybody who wants to beat procrastination and become more productive.
1. The two-minute rule
I read about this in a book called Getting Things Done by David Allen. If we have a task that takes only two minutes, we should do it right away. When I read this rule, I realized how many of my tasks only take two minutes—most of which I push off. These include taking out the garbage, sending an email, and washing my dishes after meals.
The other part of the rule says that when you start a new habit, it should take less then two minutes to do. The purpose of this rule is to make every habit as easy as possible to start. So the idea is not to focusing on the whole task but just on the first step. And once you’ve started, it’ll be much easier to continue. For example, if you decide to do a yoga class at home, you should focus only on the first step which is to take out your yoga mat.
2. Eat your frog
In Eat That Frog, a classic book on procrastination, Brian Tracy suggests accomplishing our most challenging task first so we can get it out of the way. That’s the point behind “eat your frog” message (no actual frogs were harmed in the making of this metaphor).
A few years ago when I first read this book, one thing I really hated to do was housework. So of course, I always procrastinated and did something else instead. After trying this technique for a while, I learned that after finishing the housework in the morning I don’t have to think about it any more and I can focus on other tasks.
3. Plan it out exactly
It’ll be much easier to accomplish your tasks if you create a to-do list and set up some deadlines. Nowadays every morning I make myself a plan and decide which tasks I’ll do and when. If I have to do more complicated things, I always try to break them down into smaller steps. This way I only have to focus on one step at a time instead of looking at it like one big obstacle.
4. Drop perfection
Sometimes we procrastinate because we’re afraid of failure. We might feel that we can’t do it perfectly and it holds us back from getting started. It’s great if we want to give our best, but sometimes we should aim for “done” over “perfect.” Wow, I just realized that I even procrastinated writing this article because I didn’t know how to do it perfectly. And yes, it’s not perfect but at least I’m doing it.
5. Removing distractions from your environment
If your workplace is messy and you have distractions nearby, it’ll be definitely harder to finish your tasks. So choose your environment wisely. I always have a dedicated space for work that’s different from where I relax. I also remove my phone from the space if I feel the need. If you find it too strict you can still download different applications to avoid phone distraction.
6. Think long-term
Sometimes we choose pleasure over discipline. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes, I just want to stay in bed instead of doing a workout. One thing that always helps me to get up is when I look at the big picture and visualize my long-term goals. I know that exercising makes me feel fresh in the morning and keeps me healthy, and that I’ll thank myself later.
7. Tell others about your goals
If you say your goals out loud it actually helps you to take action and finish them. So don’t be afraid to talk to your friends about your projects. The next time you see them they might ask you about your status on those projects and it can motivate you to finish them. Personally I don’t always like to talk about my goals to others but I always make sure I hang out with people who inspire me to take action.
What’s your best tip to overcome procrastination?
Also by Adrienn: 5 Ways To Motivate Yourself To Get Dressed During The Lockdown
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