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5 Hacks for Overcoming Procrastination

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5 Hacks for Overcoming Procrastination

Procrastination is something that affects all of us at some point or another. For some of us, procrastination hits us when we are trying to complete our biggest, most important projects. For others, it impacts all areas of our lives.

Whatever your relationship with procrastination, the good news is that there are steps you can take to overcome it.

Here are five hacks you can start using today to trade procrastination for productivity:

1. Figure out what’s behind the procrastination (and therefore, understand how to overcome it)

Although procrastination might seem like a mysterious phenomenon, usually there’s a good reason for it. Some of the most common causes of procrastination are fear, self-doubt and a perfectionist mindset.

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If we fear judgement from other people, or if we fear the changes that might come as a result of success, we’re likely to delay getting started. Equally, if we approach a task or project with the mindset that it either has to go exactly as planned or it’s a failure, that kind of pressure is likely to lead to procrastination and avoidance.

If you’re struggling to understand your procrastination, take some time to reflect and ask yourself, “What’s the payoff for staying stuck? How am I actually trying to help or protect myself?” With a better understanding of what’s behind your procrastination, you can take steps to build support structures and accountability that will help you take action— whatever your fears, doubts, or worries.

This hack is important, but make sure this kind of introspection doesn’t become a method of procrastination in itself!

Pairing this step with one of the following hacks will help you turn internal understanding into external action.

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2. Set a timer for 5 minutes and start

One of the hardest parts of any project or task is getting started. Most of us find that, once we’re past that first hurdle, the rest is smooth sailing. You can overcome this hurdle by giving yourself permission to work on the object of your procrastination for just five minutes.

Agree with yourself that you’ll focus on that particular task—and that task only—for the next five minutes. If you want to stop at the end of the five minutes, you’re allowed to. If you want to continue, that’s allowed too. Be careful not to “should” yourself into continuing after the timer goes off. Tomorrow, you can try another five minutes and see how you feel then.

This hack works because many people find they get into the groove and want to continue beyond the five minutes. Even if you don’t, however, that’s fine. Even five minutes each day will amount to significant progress in the long-term.

3. Focus on how good it will feel when you’re done

I ask a lot of my clients to do a specific visualisation exercise. The first part involves creating a detailed picture of how their lives will be if they take a specific course of action we’ve been discussing. The second part involves creating a detailed picture of how their lives will be if they don’t take that course of action. For each picture, I ask them to think about how they’ll feel, and how taking or not taking action will affect other areas of their lives too.

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If you’d like a dose of intrinsic motivation, you can do a similar exercise yourself. Imagine you’re looking at your life a year from now. Create the two pictures above, allowing yourself to feel the feelings associated with taking action (such as satisfaction, fulfillment, accomplishment, excitement, and confidence) and then the feelings associated with not taking action (such as disappointment, fatigue, dread, and negative self-judgement).

Now, you know the consequences of your action (or inaction) and you have a choice which reality you choose to create.

4. Find a way to make the task fun

With any big project, there will be tasks or actions that just aren’t fun or interesting. These can stall otherwise speedy progress and lead to a period of avoidance and procrastination.

If you’re in this situation now, you can help yourself by finding ways to make a particular task more interesting. Put on some good music, take your computer to a coffee shop and work there, or invite friends to take part with you. The fun-making method you choose will depend on the task at hand, but there will be a way to turn your procrastination into passion.

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5. Set up public accountability

Public accountability is one of the most effective ways of overcoming procrastination. It’s effective for a simple reason: we don’t like to look bad in front of other people. Public accountability doesn’t even have to be that public to be helpful. Just being accountable to one person is often enough to kick us into gear.

To make the most out of public accountability, enlist the help of a coach, a friend or a dedicated accountability buddy. Tell them exactly what action you’re going to take and when you’re going to do it.

Featured photo credit: Britt Selvitelle via flickr.com

More by this author

Hannah Braime

Hannah is a coach who believes the world is a richer place when we have the courage to be fully self-expressed.

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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