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Four Procrastination Myths Debunked

Four Procrastination Myths Debunked
    Day 115 is courtesy of Jacqui Brown

    There are less than one hundred days left in 2011.

    If you have a backlog of projects that you meant to work on this year, but which you haven’t gotten around to, it’s very likely that procrastination is the culprit.

    Timothy Pychyl, Ph.D., creator of the popular web site procrastination.ca, is one of the world’s foremost experts on procrastination. Dr. Pychyl defines procrastination as “the needless, often irrational, voluntary delay of an intended task”. That is, you intend to work on a task but you go off and start working on something else which you know is not as important, and which doesn’t need to get done right away.

    There are several myths, lies, or excuses that we use in order to avoid doing the work that needs to be done. A procrastination myth is when we tell ourselves that there’s a valid reason why we’re putting off an important task, when the reality is that it’s just a lame excuse we’re using in order to defer doing work that requires effort and concentration. Four of the most common procrastination myths are laid out and debunked below.

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    Myth Number 1: “I work better under pressure.”

    You have an important report due in two weeks, but instead of getting started on the report you find yourself cleaning out the refrigerator or reorganizing your closet. In order to reduce the dissonance that exists between what you’re doing and what you should be doing, you immediately start rationalizing this behavior. You tell yourself that you’re just one of those people who works better under pressure, so the best thing for you to do is to postpone getting started on the report.

    The reality is that procrastination harms performance. Scrambling around trying to complete projects at the last minute and cramming the night before a big exam is not the most efficient or enjoyable way to get things done. Planning and pacing your projects always gets you better results, and it’s a lot less stressful than constantly pulling all-nighters and handing things in at the last possible moment.

    If you’re convinced that you simply can’t get yourself to start on a task unless you feel the pressure of a looming deadline, then start creating artificial pressure for yourself. There are many ways you can do this. For example, set a timer and tell yourself that you have thirty minutes to write the first paragraph. You can even pretend that it’s a timed essay exam and that at the end of the thirty minutes you have to stop typing, no matter what. Another method you can try is to get an accountability buddy to whom you have to “hand in” regular updates of your work.

    By using artificial pressure you get the best of both worlds. On the one hand, having artificial deadlines forces you to focus all of your attention on the task at hand, and it prevents you from expanding the work needlessly in order to fill the time available for its completion (Parkinson’s Law). On the other hand, this method allows you to give yourself sufficient time to do adequate research, to check your facts and figures, and to edit your work properly.

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    If you’re still not convinced, conduct an experiment. Take two similar tasks: postpone working on one of the tasks until the last possible minute; pace yourself on the other one. Then, compare the two experiences.

    Myth Number 2: “I need to be inspired or to be in the right mood before I can work on this.”

    Do you put off getting started on important tasks until you’re “in the mood” or until inspiration strikes? Telling yourself that you’re waiting for inspiration to strike is procrastination in disguise. Instead of waiting for the ideas to start flowing before you get started on a task, you need to sit down and get to work with or without inspiration. You’ll find that inspiration is a byproduct of having the discipline to do what needs to be done; inspiration comes from doing.

    Stop wasting time waiting for inspiration. As Picasso once said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

    Myth Number 3: “I need to have at least three or four hours of uninterrupted time in order to work on this.”

    In “Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time” Brian Tracy recommends that you think continually of ways to save, schedule, and consolidate large chunks of time. Then, use that time to work on your most important tasks. However, if you don’t have a large chunk of time available to work on an important task, such as a report that’s due in a couple of weeks, it’s a mistake to keep postponing the task until you do have a few hours of uninterrupted time.

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    Instead, you should apply the “Swiss Cheese Approach”. This is a method that was introduced by Alan Lakein in his book, “How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life”. Of course, Swiss cheese is easily recognizable because it’s full of holes. According to Lakein, “the underlying assumption of the Swiss cheese approach is that it is indeed possible to get something started in five minutes or less. And once you’ve started, you’ve given yourself the opportunity to keep going.”

    In a nutshell, the Swiss Cheese Approach consists of the following:

    • Work in small holes of time, such as fifteen minutes, twenty minutes, or half an hour.
    • Poke small holes into a large task on a consistent basis.

    This approach works for the following reasons:

    • Once you get started on a task, it no longer looks as difficult and overwhelming as it did before you got started.
    • By poking small holes in a project you’ll be making constant progress at a good pace.
    • This approach allows you to create a sense of forward momentum.
    • Each time that you get a little bit of the task done, it gives you a feeling of accomplishment.
    • You’re making good use of small pockets of time, instead of wasting that time.

    When you only have fifteen or twenty minutes to work on your project, instead of telling yourself that you’re better off waiting until you have more time to work on it, ask yourself the following questions:

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    • “What can I get done in these fifteen minutes?”
    • “Is there a small segment of the project that I can get started on?”
    • “How can I use this time to poke a small hole into this project?”

    Keep poking holes into the project whenever you have a few minutes to spare, and soon you’ll be surprised to discover that you’re practically done with the project.

    Myth Number 4: “I’ll be able to do a better job tomorrow.”

    We all have a tendency to think that things will be different in the future, even if that future is just tomorrow. In the future we’ll have more time, we’ll be better organized, we’ll have more impulse control, we’ll be better rested and have more energy, and we’ll be better equipped to get things done. Therefore, we keep handing our present-day responsibilities over to this superhero future self.

    The reality is the following:

    • Unless you start taking steps to become more productive and effective today, you’ll be as time-starved tomorrow as you are today.
    • Unless you take steps to become more disciplined today, you’ll be just as undisciplined tomorrow as you are today.
    • Unless you take steps to become more organized today, you’ll be just as disorganized tomorrow as you are today.

    This can be boiled down to the following tried and true adage: don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today.

    Conclusion

    Most of us have probably used one or more of the myths above as a way to excuse ourselves from getting to work on a task that made us feel uncomfortable–because we were afraid of doing a bad job, because the task was complex and we felt overwhelmed, or because there was something else we would rather have been doing. Hopefully, after reading this article, you’ll stop saying these things to yourself when it’s time to get to work on an important task.

    What myths have been sustaining your procrastination habit? Please share in the comments below.

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    Last Updated on January 2, 2019

    Better Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions to Reduce Your Stress

    Better Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions to Reduce Your Stress

    The end of the year is the time when everyone tries to give you advice on how to live healthier, look better, and earn more money.

    It’s understandable if you find yourself lost among all the tips and opinions. Sometimes you no longer know what you truly want to achieve next year – and what’s just imposed by society.

    To help you out, we’ve made this article about the things you should remove from your new year’s resolution list – instead of adding to it – to make your daily life more harmonious and peaceful.

    So just make sure you cross these off your New Year’s to-do list – your body, mind and soul will be thankful.

    1. Stop Buying Meaningless Gifts

    We all know the sense of obligation – when we have to buy a gift for an event or celebration that’s already tomorrow, but we still have no idea of what to give.

    Take these tips close to heart for all upcoming holidays, including birthdays, weddings, graduations, etc.:

    Stop focusing on the material objects

    Instead of focusing on what material object to give, think about the emotion you want to evoke[1] in the gift recipient, and then pick a symbolic gift that can support or represent that emotion. For example, you can gift coziness by presenting a “comfort set” with warm socks, tea, candles, etc. Or give motivation by presenting a beautiful planner or notebook.

    Plan gifts in advance

    We know this is easier said than done. But if you try to plan which gifts you’ll need in the upcoming months (try making a list three or four times a year), ideas will more likely come to mind and you’ll avoid that last-minute shopping. Not to mention, you’ll be able to keep an eye on sales to get the best prices.

    Suggest a better way

    If you’re tired of exchanging gifts for birthdays and holidays, initiate a different approach. For example, draw names among family members and agree that each one only buys a present to that one person they got. Alternatively, you can agree not to share gifts among adults, and only give presents to kids of the family. Or, ask friends to donate to charity instead of buying a gift for you.

    Go for common experiences instead of exchanging gifts

    You can agree (with your partner or the extended family) to go on a common trip, dinner or another activity, instead of spending money on gifts.

    Sometimes you’ll have to be the one who initiates breaking the rules that have been accepted in the family for years. But if you suspect that you’re not the only one in the group who’s tired of gift-hunting, you’ll surely find support for your suggestions.

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    2. Don’t Exaggerate with Diets and Fitness Resolutions

    It’s no secret that TV shows, article headlines, and ads (not to mention our healthy diet-obsessed friends) make us feel like we need to look better, slimmer and younger than we actually are. But going on yet another diet or starting a fitness plan with the wrong motivation rarely leads to great results.

    If you are like many people, you have probably signed up for an annual gym membership at least once in your life – only to drop it one month later.

    How do you balance a good resolution for a healthier life without pushing yourself into commitments that won’t last?

    Here’s what you can do:

    Set a healthier pattern

    For example, do meat-free Mondays or reduce meat consumption to three days per week (less saturated fat for you and better for the environment). Or choose to eat only healthy food at least three days a week or only on weekdays (e.g. make sure your meals contain vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy products, and protein). This way you’ll already have a healthier diet while still being able to treat yourself with a snack on weekends or parties.

    Get a fitness watch

    Fitness watches like Fitbit or MiBand are tiny accessories that will count your steps, calories burnt and will serve as an excellent motivator to move – or to take the stairs instead of the elevator.

    Find a physical activity that you enjoy

    Even if you are not that fond of doing sports, you can definitely find an activity that you’d do with pleasure. Think about what you’d like – from taking up Nordic walking to pilates or even exercising at home.

    Try intermittent fasting

    This is an alternating cycles of fasting and eating. For example, stop eating at 8 pm and restart not sooner than 12 hours later. This approach has been proven to have numerous health benefits, in addition to weight loss.

    Skip cabs or driving to work and opt for cycling or walking instead

    You’ll burn calories, breathe some fresh air, and save money – win-win!

    3. Put a Cap on Your Daily To-Do List

    In today’s busy world, planning your day in a stress-free way is actually an art in itself. It’s natural to want to be a loving parent, a diligent employee, an active member of the local community and probably several other individual roles.

    But playing all these roles requires energy and meticulous planning. How not to lose yourself amidst all the appointments and responsibilities? And – most importantly – how to still find time for relaxing and recharging yourself?

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    These daily planning tips will help you have more stress-free days:

    Leave bigger intervals between meetings

    If you schedule too many appointments or chores in a day, you’ll probably end up late at some point, and as a result – more stressed. There are many different reasons why people are late, but poor planning is a major factor too.

    Plan time to relax

    As weird as it may sound, you should try and schedule your resting time. For example, if you only have one free evening this week, and a friend tries to squeeze in a meeting, feel free to say no. Don’t feel obliged to specify the reason for your refusal, just say that you are busy.

    Try to be a little pessimistic

    We’re often packed with plans or running late for errands because we tend to be overly optimistic – about the traffic, the time it takes to do things, etc. Instead, try an opposite tactic — assume you’ll hit traffic or the meeting will take longer.

    Try waking up earlier

    Sometimes even waking up 30 minutes earlier can give you the much-needed head start for several errands of the day. But remember to get enough sleep every night, even if it means going to bed earlier.

    Plan your day the day before

    Chances are your day will be much better organized if you pack a lunch and lay out an outfit before going to bed.

    Designate a time for checking emails and social messages

    If you start checking your messages between appointments, you risk getting lost in a sea of messages that need replies. Designate a time for this activity or do it in case you arrived early to a meeting.

    4. Let Go of Unhealthy and Time-Consuming Habits

    If there’s one thing we should get rid of in the new year, it’s the habits that steal our time, provide instant gratification but don’t offer any value in the long term. Or even worse, leave a negative impact on our health.

    Here are some common (and pointless) habits along with tips on how to get rid of them:

    Binge-watching TV series

    Even if most online television platforms offer you lists of “Best TV Shows to Binge Watch”, being addicted to series is a major time-waster.

    You can manage this addiction in several ways, for example, watch one episode per day (or a few per week) as a reward, only after you’ve finished an assignment or done a house chore. Or try replacing this habit with exercise or reading a book – this will be hard at first but should stick after a few weeks. You can also try to track how much time you spend on TV or movies – seeing how much of your life you are wasting might urge you to do something about it.

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    Running on coffee

    Being a coffee addict is kind of a stylish addiction nowadays, but it’s not that innocent as it may initially seem. Besides addiction being a problem in itself, drinking too much coffee (more than 500-600 mg of caffeine a day) may lead to nervousness, insomnia, an upset stomach, a fast heartbeat, and even muscle tremors.[2]

    As a solution, try switching to tea or edible coffee – a more sustainable, healthy, and productivity-enhancing alternative. For example, Coffee Pixels are solid coffee bars that generate a more even energy kick throughout the day without the coffee-induced abstinence and dehydration.

    Procrastination

    Fighting procrastination requires some serious willpower. If it is a problem in your daily life or work, try ”eating the frog” in the morning – get over your biggest or hardest tasks first, then tackle everything else.

    Alternatively, use time tracking software to monitor exactly how much time you waste on unproductive actions, websites or apps. Once you know exactly how much time you’re spending unproductively, try to limit your time on social media, for example to just 20 minutes per day.

    If nothing else works, try bribing yourself — promise yourself to do something fun or pleasant when you finish your assignment.

    Whichever habit you want to give up, consider using some habits building tools to make a contract with yourself and reward yourself for milestones achieved.

    5. Stop over-consuming

    We live in the age of consumerism – huge manufacturers with their promise of a comfortable life on the one hand, and growing environmental threats – that are the direct result of our modern lifestyle – on the other hand. There’s only one solution – try to consume less whenever and wherever you can.

    Before making additional purchases, ask yourself these questions:

    • Do I really need it? Did I need it yesterday?
    • Can’t I buy it used or borrow it from friends?
    • Can I rent it?
    • Can I make it myself?
    • Am I buying the most sustainable version of this product?

    For example, check if the brand you chose is conscious about the environment, for example, are the products they manufacture energy efficient? Do they try to use less packaging?

    Also, if you often find yourself buying too many groceries, promise to buy only the amount that fits in one shopping bag (that you bring along). If you often forget to take your shopping bag with you, get yourself a 2-in-1 wallet with a built-in shopping bag for more eco-friendly shopping.

    6. Learn to Unplug from Your Phone

    Today’s world is crammed with information, and many people struggle to keep focus on what’s truly important. There’s just too much going on in the world – too much to read, to watch, to know, too many conversations to participate in.

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    But how to refuse the temptation to check the phone and start using social media in a controlled, not a compulsive way?

    Some tips for managing your phone-dependency:

    Spend only a limited amount of battery per day

    For example, start your day with 50% battery life, and manage your phone usage so that you’ll make it till the evening.

    Block distracting apps and notifications on your phone and computer

    Choose one-hour, two-hour or longer blocking sessions and enjoy the positive impact this will have on your mood and productivity.[3]

    Set your phone on flight mode

    When you start doing an important task that requires full focus, set your phone on flight mode so that nobody can disturb you.

    Leave your phone at home or in the office when you go for lunch

    You’ll see that the feeling of being unreachable for a moment is actually very liberating.

    The Bottom Line

    As a new year begins, we’re all excitedly looking forward to what adventures await ahead of us.

    But this year, promise yourself this:

    Instead of having a never-ending list of tasks and commitments, focus on the truly meaningful ones. And cross-out all the rest without feeling guilty.

    Less is more. Make this year count. We’re all rooting for you.

    Featured photo credit: Brooke Lark via unsplash.com

    Reference

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