Why do I continue to procrastinate? There are a lot of reasons – because I don’t want to work right now because I don’t feel prepared, because I’m exhausted – all of these reasons are valid in the welcoming world of procrastination. However, when I’m just going to take a little break somehow turns into I guess I’ll try again tomorrow, you might feel like you’ve worn out your welcome in procrastination town. The question is, how do you escape?
If it makes you feel any better you can start by blaming procrastination on your parents. Most of us were taught at a young age that when faced with danger we should turn and run away. We’ve been nurtured to avoid anything that might cause us harm. So, when the stress of a jam-packed day rises, it is our innate reaction to find a way to avoid and escape from that stress.
Understand that procrastination is like a sugar rush. The initial release makes you feel happier and comforted only to lead to the inevitable crash coupled with headaches and guilt. Like any addictive tendency, you’ll do whatever you can to avoid coming down. When your procrastinating activity (i.e. reading a magazine) ends, you’ll search for another rush (maybe I’ll just watch one episode) and you’ll continue looking for more ways to avoid the tension that wasting valuable time has created…a time that you can never get back.
3 QUICK REALITY CHECKS
1. It’s Not Hurting Me
In truth, procrastination can lead to anxiety, stress, and insomnia, all of which lower your immune system and make you more susceptible to getting sick.
2. It Feels So Good To Give In
While you may feel momentarily empowered by resisting your to-do list, chronic procrastination will make you feel like you are not in control of your own life. This type of power struggle with procrastination makes it hard to stay motivated. Struggling to keep up on things that you should have done weeks ago can kill your daily sense of achievement while damaging your overall self-esteem and confidence.
3. I Work Better Under Tight Deadlines
Hurrying through your work can leave room for errors while squashing areas of enlightenment. No matter how good you are at racing against the clock, no rushed product will be as good as one that has had the time to sit, marinate and be improved upon.
Understanding why you continue to procrastinate is the first step in breaking the pattern. The next step is preparing you to succeed.
SET SPECIFIC GOALS AND REALISTIC TIMELINES
Writing an inspirational piece, working on your data storytelling skills, creating a new client proposal and implementing some fresh marketing techniques are all fantastic aspirations…just not things that can necessarily be completed by the EOD. Instead, break down your general goals into checkpoints that can be measured. (I.e. I want to create that new client proposal, the first step is to do some background research on their company and that should take about an hour.) By breaking your goals down step-by-step you can measure realistic timelines and void yourself of the hesitation that comes about when starting something big.
MAKE UP YOUR REWARDS
Sometimes the thrill of getting something done isn’t enough. Each week establish your top five to-dos and give yourself a Friday deadline. If completed, reward yourself on Friday with a new outfit or a massage – something you would not ordinarily splurge on that gives you a reason to celebrate. In addition to being a morale booster, the promise of a reward will help you think twice when procrastination casts off a come-hither stare.
TELL THE WORLD
If you work with other people, send an email promising that by “x time” you will send your first draft of “x”. Knowing that other people are expecting a time-sensitive result will keep you motivated to continue. For the solo entrepreneur, Facebook and Twitter declarations can have the same effect. Post a status that declares your day’s determination, and then repost later whether or not you were successful. Knowing that others are paying attention to your productivity will aid in completing what you set out to accomplish.
STOP WAITING FOR THE STARS TO ALIGN
Hesitation is the snobby sister of procrastination. She has to have everything “just right” before taking anything on. For the procrastinator this can mean embarking on days of research, convincing yourself that you need tools x, y, and z before you can even start and once again affirming that you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to do it right. Pacify hesitation by diving in headfirst and never looking back; a lot of the time you’ll find that starting is the hardest part.
How do you fight the good fight against procrastination?