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Five Ways to Beat Your Procrastination Habit – Now!

Five Ways to Beat Your Procrastination Habit – Now!

Procrastination. We all do it, and know the feeling of remorse after we set out do something but end up completely off-task. You would think we’d learn after the first – or at least the 5th – time of procrastinating that it’s not in our best interest. It’s a classic example of our impulses beating out forethought, like when you eat that whole bag of potato chips or skip the gym even though you know you’ll regret it later. We don’t usually learn from past detrimental behaviors when the immediate gratification precedes the distant, more favorable payoff.

The two key features that determine payoffs are the actual reward and the temporal contiguity. The temporal contiguity is how soon the payoff comes after a certain behavior is exhibited. For example, you eat a potato chip and feel pretty satisfied the moment the salt and oil touches your taste buds. These immediate payoffs are incredibly hard to resist. This is similar to choosing to get on Facebook instead of write that essay: you pretty much feel satisfied immediately after logging on, where as the essay may take hours to finish. But hopping on Facebook before chipping away at the essay means it will be even longer before you feel the satisfaction of having your work done, and why would you want to delay that satisfaction? Here are five concepts to help you stay on track and earn the greater yet often delayed reward.

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1. Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is great for people who like to work in short productive bursts. Usually you work in 25 minutes intervals with about 5 minutes breaks between each work session. Then after four work sessions, you get a longer 20 or 30 minute break. It’s a good idea to set out the tasks you need to accomplish and set goals for each 25 minute chunk of time: The limited amount of time in each interval can make you more productive.

2. Parkinson’s Law

The idea behind Parkinson’s Law is that work fills the amount of time you allow it to. Now, this idea may actually fuel procrastination if you think you can leave something to the last minute and get it done, but the idea is to use it in the reverse way. For example, give yourself a start and end time to work in a focused, rather than an ambiguous, time frame to avoid distractions from seeping in.

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3. Pareto Principle

According to the Pareto principle, 20% of your time is used to fill the majority of your important goals. If you can get the majority of your work done with only 20% of your time, this is incentive to structure your time so you don’t waste it. If you feel you won’t be productive, don’t force yourself to slug through a task you could do more efficiently in a better state. Efficiency should always be put first. If you’re feeling sick or hungover, use the first part of time to do less mentally draining yet necessary tasks like e-mails, scheduling and reading the news. Then use your most alert time to get through the most challenging tasks.

4. Quadrant Method

This is also known as the Eisenhower method. With the Quadrant Method, you categorize tasks into one of four quadrants. The top two columns are labeled “Urgent” and “Not Urgent,” and the first two rows are labeled “Important and “Not Important.” Once you have tasks categorized, focus all your energy on the Urgent and Important tasks. Then once those are, done focus on the not Urgent but Important tasks. Not Urgent and Not Important should really be avoided while the Not Important but Urgent should not be allowed to take up more than a small portion of your time.

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5. Time chunking

Time chunking is a more general concept, but can be useful if you want more flexibility with your work time. The idea is to dedicate certain times of the day or certain days of the week to different task categories. You can even add in “Waste Time” as a category so you can plan on doing all that would normally serve as distractions during work time. At least with this method you actively decide how you spend your time rather than getting sucked into unintentional behaviors.

While we cannot focus all of our mental energy 100% of the time, we can actively decide how our time is spent and ultimately maximize this limited time.

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Last Updated on October 15, 2018

How to Calm Down When You Are Overwhelmed: 7 Quick Ways to Try

How to Calm Down When You Are Overwhelmed: 7 Quick Ways to Try

Do you sometimes feel that you add items to your to-do list faster than you tick them off? Do you spend most of your day worrying about your lack of time?

The truth is, no matter how much we love our job, or how productive we believe we are under stress, there comes a moment when the pressure rises above boiling point. The sheer number of urgent tasks multiplies in a geometric progression. New possibilities no longer sound inspiring, they sound overwhelming and equal more work.

If that’s where you are right now – keep reading! If not, it doesn’t mean you should wait until you get there to learn how to cope with a demanding work schedule and how to calm yourself down quickly when you feel overwhelmed.

Here are 7 quick and easy tips on how to calm down when you are overwhelmed:

1. Let go of a few activities

Yes, it’s that easy! Take a look at your to-do list and ask yourself, “If I don’t do it today, will it matter a month from now?”

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Not every urgent task is important. Just like not every important, high pay-off task is urgent. The best way to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed and to manage your time is to know the difference between the two and learn to simplify your life by getting your to-do list down to three big tasks.

2. Take deep breaths to calm down

This advice sounds so simple it’s often overlooked. But it works better (and faster) than any other relaxation technique out there.

There is a direct connection between our emotional state and breathing. An anxious, frustrated or overwhelmed person breathes as if they have just finished running a marathon. A calm person breathes differently. Their breathing is deep, slow and steady. So when you have a panic attack, the best way to bring your heart rate down and to regain your cool is to change your breathing.

Try this now:

Take a slow, long deep breath in, filling your lungs with air and expanding your diaphragm. Hold your breath for four counts and then slowly release the air through your mouth. Repeat four times and notice frustration and the feeling of being overwhelmed dissolve with each long exhale of these calming breaths.

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3. Make “Just one thing” your mantra

When we feel overwhelmed by the amount of tasks on our to-do list, it’s easy to enter the ‘deer in the headlights’ state. You see deadlines approaching directly towards you, and you know that something has to be done about them, but you just don’t know where to start.

The best way to get your mind out of an ‘inactivity trance’ is to create momentum. This is what makes the “Just one thing” mantra so powerful. It helps to change our expectation that everything has to be completed right now, “or else.”

Next time you feel overwhelmed make grabbing a cup of coffee your “Just one thing.” You can do it, right? Then come back, pick one of the smallest tasks on your to-do list and tell yourself you’ll do just that one task. This is your next “Just one thing” that you will concentrate on until it’s complete. After that you can move on to the next task and so on.

It’s not “One thing at a time.” Saying this implies that there is a huge line of other tasks waiting to get done and that’s not the message you want to keep repeating to yourself. Learn how to focus here and stop getting overwhelmed.

4. Reduce the multi-tasking and multi-thinking

It’s been proven that multi-tasking is very inefficient, to the point of dumbing us down (more than smoking marijuana does). The same is true for multi-thinking, when your mind frantically jumps from one thought to another, trying to focus on and analyze several things all at once.

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Fortunately, there is help. A few minutes of meditation or brainwave music is all it takes to start feeling more relaxed, more creative and less overwhelmed.

5. Get moving

Any exercise you engage in – be it walking or dancing to your favorite beat – helps to release endorphins, the ‘feel-good’ hormones, through your body and to clear your mind.

Staying active also increases your productivity, enhances your ability to combat stress and anxiety. It also helps you to release the tension, boosting your mood and changing the thoughts that induce the sense of being overwhelmed.

The best part is you don’t have to spend hours in the gym to get the mind-soothing benefits of exercise. Even as little as 15 minutes of dancing or jogging can go a long way towards making you feel better and staying calmer.

6. Change your surroundings

We all need and deserve to take vacations from work woes and family responsibilities. Unfortunately, spending two weeks lazing on a beach, toes in the sand and a Mojito in hand, is not always an option. However, this doesn’t mean that we can’t take short ‘vacations’ from work stress and the technology buzz.

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Go outside for a few minutes and enjoy the sunshine. Stop at a park instead of driving straight home from work. Sometimes changing your surroundings and ‘spicing up your routine’ is all it takes to change your perspective on things and find creative solutions to seemingly complex and overwhelming problems.

7. Get some pet therapy

Studies have shown what most of us already guessed – our pets can be a great help during stressful moments. Simple actions such as petting or playing with your dog or cat can lower high blood pressure, boost your immune system and boost your mood.

Besides, pets can make the best conversation partners to share your frustrations with. They listen, they love you unconditionally and they never talk back or say, “I told you so.”

Final thoughts

Don’t wait for stress to hit you to start practicing these quick ways to calm down when you are overwhelmed. The best way to enjoy a worry-free life is not to push yourself to the limit of being overwhelmed and frustrated.

Featured photo credit: Dardan via unsplash.com

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