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This Is How I Stop Procrastination.

This Is How I Stop Procrastination.

It can be hard to stay self-motivated when you’re facing your computer screen. Life gets in the way, and that new Netflix release can look awfully tempting compared to a strenuous session of work.

Time goes by, and before you know it, nothing has been done.

Ultimately, you’re the one who’s accountable for your own work. Even though getting things done can be tough when nobody’s there to push you, you can use a few techniques to get into the groove once again.

Try following these five tips and see if they get you going on what you should be doing:

1.Promise yourself a reward after doing a task

I like to treat myself to something nice, such as a snack or a TV show–but only after I’ve completed a certain amount of work. It’s not a pretty thought when you haven’t started, but it works.

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For example, if I need to write a blog post, I might set a small goal such as doing some basic brainstorming. Once I jot down a number of bullet points, then I can have a small break.

I sometimes find that I’m actually tired and could use a break. Other times, I end up becoming incredibly focused on the task at hand and forget about the break. Either way, I’ve made progress.

2. Break the task down

It’s easy to get excited in the beginning of a project and set big, lofty goals for ourselves. But once the hard work begins, our initial goal just seems too out of reach. We begin to falter. As a result, we give up or decide to do the work “later”.

Instead of setting an overly ambitious goal such as “I’m going to lose 20 pounds by the end of next week”, why not set a concrete, yet manageable goal just for the day? The truth is, we often set goals that require too many steps, overwhelming ourselves.

For example, I might just set one very simple goal. It could just be, “Open a Word document and write down the topic.” That’s it. Then, I might set another mini-goal, such as “Type in a few bullet points.”

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These tiny goals might not seem like much, but they challenge your resistance to getting started in the first place.

3.Warm up first

It can be hard to go straight from waking up and enjoying a nice breakfast to working right away. Why not do a warm-up first?

Doing work can be mentally taxing, especially if you’re still groggy. Instead, you could start off by doing a mental exercise to get you going. This could mean reading a book on self-development or psychology, or solving a Sudoku puzzle.

Physical exercises also do wonders when it comes to starting off the day right. A cardio workout helps you increase your energy and feeling ready to take on the day.

4.Stop analysis-paralysis

Have you ever thought of starting something, but thought that just reading one more article or watching one more video would provide a flash of insight? And then you ended up just reading about it, but not actually doing something.

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Hesitation is part of the process. It’s natural. But if you let it take hold, fear can keep you from starting at all.

Next time that happens, try this: Just let loose. Do something. Don’t get stuck on the idea of being perfect. Just try something out and improve as you go along. It can be intimidating, but also strangely liberating.

5.Think of what will happen if you DON’T get started

Studies have shown that people who procrastinate tend to have “myopia” when it comes to the future. That is, they only see the short-term rewards, but not the long-term effects of procrastination.

Playing a video game in the next hour is much more rewarding immediately than working on a goal, but damaging in the long run if you keep putting off what’s important.

If you find yourself in this situation, try this:

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Imagine the worst situation that will happen if you don’t do something productive.

For example, let’s say you’re at a job you hate and dream of running your own business. You get home tired from work. But instead of researching more into starting a venture, it’s easier to watch TV. Think of what will happen in 10 years. You’ll probably be stuck at the same old job, wondering what could have been if you had taken action earlier.

What is one technique you like to use to get un-stuck?

Featured photo credit: Eneas via flickr.com

More by this author

Melissa Chu

Founder of JumpstartYourDreamLife.com

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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