So you’ve just been assigned a big project, You mentally plan your work out and realize that you can easily finish it by the 2-week deadline. The next morning, you open your laptop and start working, you complete a small chunk and decide to take a 15-minute break. Then suddenly it’s 10 pm and you’re on Netflix binge-watching a random show, and all you have done throughout the day is nowhere close to what you had planned. Although that night you promise yourself it won’t happen tomorrow, you find yourself one week into the project having achieved next to nothing.
Been there, done that.
Procrastination is a vice we’ve all fallen prey to. Procrastination is nothing but the act of delaying or postponing a task or set of tasks, often against your better judgment.
This becomes especially taxing when you are in the world of business. A single email sent too late can cost you thousands of dollars and a missed deadline can mean that you need to declare bankruptcy. The stakes are way too high.
To learn how to combat procrastination, we first need to see where it stems from.
The answer is simple and a little frustrating: we have a monkey brain. And this little monkey brain of ours has a hard time processing and actualizing an abstract concept such as our future self’s joy. It can grasp the concept but because it can’t feel that joy it does not create a very strong and compelling incentive and thus you find the instantly gratifying activity more rewarding. The truth is that our monkey brain values instant gratification way more than it does our long term benefit, so when it comes down to it, you might end up watching just one more episode even though you promised yourself you wouldn’t.
Of course, humans as we are, have after extensive research (and a little bit of procrastination in between) come up with ways to trick our monkey brain into helping out our future self get things done.
Here is a list of 7 ways you can overcome procrastination.
1.Make the rewards more immediate
Procrastination is caused because you want instant gratification. What if we could make that sense of instant gratification a little more aligned to your goals? Tie your ‘rewards’ with desirable actions or as an immediate consequence of a desirable action. This could include only listening to your favorite podcast or music album while working out or only agreeing to an outing with your friends once you’ve finished a certain presentation.
2.Consequences more immediate
Only when you start fearing the consequences of not doing something, does your monkey mind snap out of it and you find yourself cramming a whole week’s worth of work in one night to meet the deadline. Create immediate consequences for not doing work, and you will find yourself procrastinating less. If you don’t finish the presentation you will have to cancel your non-refundable tickets to the movie or have to put 50 bucks in the jar of shame. This can also include involving a friend or mentor to hold you accountable for your work; if you don’t do it, you’ll let them down. Yikes!
3.Put yourself on the clock
Aah yes, the inescapable wrath of time. Time and tide wait for none, especially not your procrastinating habits. When having to do a lot of things in a tiny amount of time, it is best to set timers that put you on the clock and give you a very short working window so that you can’t afford to waste a single minute. Got a gazillion things to do in the morning? Set a timer for each one of them and you will be shocked at your speed and how much you’re able to accomplish in an hour.
4.The 2-minute rule
A personal favorite, the 2-minute rule helps you get so many of the little things done. It is pretty simple: if there’s something you can do in 2 minutes, do it right now. Small things like sending a reply or putting dirty clothes in the hamper get taken care of immediately and reduce so much stress for your future self.
5.Break down your work into little tidbits
Sometimes work can get overwhelming. In those cases, it’s best to break your mammoth of a task into tiny bite-size pieces that stop it from looking oh-so-intimidating and helps you start. You’ll often find that once you start, you’re on a roll. It was just your anxiety getting the best of you.
6.Let your environment guide you
When people talk about the importance of organizing and preparing, they’re not overselling it. Your environment guides you in making your choices, once you start prepping for your future self, you’ll find that it is easier for your take decisions that align with your goals. Figure out what you’ll be wearing to work the next day or create an outline for the blog you have to write the next day and now all the things you need to do don’t seem all that overwhelming anymore.
7.Appreciate yourself for the things that you did right
Humans are creatures guided by positive reinforcement. If you make a decision that you’re proud of, appreciate yourself for it. Completed a task on time? Kudos. Stuck to your meal plan for the week? You’re doing great. Celebrate your victories because they are proof of your hard work, efforts, and perseverance.
These 7 ways are just a small list of a great many. You need to find which ones work for you and which ones don’t. Overcoming procrastination doesn’t mean you will never procrastinate, but when you do catch yourself procrastinating, you have the right tools to help you come out of it!
Some other techniques and theories that you can look into are Mark Manson’s ‘Do Something Principle’, The Pomodoro Technique, and The Ivy Lee Method.
Procrastination is something that most people experience in one form or another. Sharing these tips and tricks that you’ve learned in a team meeting can help your coworkers, colleagues, and friends. Most of these pointers are pretty easy and doable. If you’re able to manage your procrastination, your efficiency, productivity, and morale will grow significantly. All the best!
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