“Procrastination may not take up a lot of effort physically…but it takes over the mind!” ~ Stephen Hall
To be honest, I procrastinated writing this post about procrastination…
…I put away my dishes. I filled my water bottle. I searched up some good music. I adjusted my writing lamp. I even posted a quote about procrastination to Instagram. An hour and half later here I am finally putting words on paper.
Procrastination seems to take little effort, but pretty quickly it becomes a job in itself, taking real effort avoiding the task at hand and filling it with other unproductive and likely unnecessary activities. So, what can you do to kick procrastination out of your head?
“Whatever form of procrastination comes in, learn to identify it, root it, and kick it out! ~ Jim Howard
Procrastination usually comes in for me in the form of small little administrative tasks or detailed searches on Google or unnecessary tidying or straightening up. When I feel like I’m really busy scurrying around, but not really getting anything substantial done, I know that I’m procrastinating. I tend to do this when I’m nervous about a tasks or imagine it to be more difficult or painful than it is in reality, such as writing this blog post! Yeah, writing a blog post takes work, but once I get going it usually just flows. It’s the getting started that takes 80% of the effort. Fortunately, there are a few things I can do in those moments to get me back on track:
- POSITIVE SELF-TALK: If I’m already worried about something, beating myself up about dragging my feet to face it will only make me want to avoid it more. Instead, I try to take a moment to be with my anxiety, acknowledge it, and reassure myself that it’s not as bad, hard, scary, whatever as I dream it to be. I also remind myself how many times in the past I have faced a similar situation and been successful. Finally, I even acknowledge that procrastination is normal, and take a deep breath and get started. As I said in the previous paragraph, getting started is often the hardest part.
- I START: Even if I only finished part of what I planned for that day, I feel like I achieved something. Sometimes just putting pen to paper for 10 minutes is enough for me to get over the original obstacle that was holding me back and fueling my procrastination. Then, the next day it is much easier to get to work immediately because those 10 minutes helped to restore my confidence and reduce my stress. Instead of staring into a blank overwhelming abyss of possibility; there is something on paper and the finished post suddenly seems only a few keystrokes away.
- BREAK BIG PROJECTS INTO SMALLER TASKS: Writing 50+ blog posts can seem overwhelming, but if I break it down into one blog a week that seems doable. Now, that I had a timeline, I can also start thinking of topics that might fit that time of the school year and plan ahead (in other words, use my usual procrastinating tactic of list making for good). This planning ahead will prevent me from getting trapped by my incessantly need to research and generate ideas when I’m avoiding writing an essay. No need to think of a topic for that week because I already have one planned out in advance. I can even break each blog post into parts (opening hook, introduction/personal story, tips, closing statement). Then, if I can’t get the whole post done at once, I can at least finish one section at a time.
- SET DEADLINES: My blog post needs to be up every Wednesday morning at 6:00am, so I need to finish it before then. Granted, it is currently 9:45pm on Tuesday night, so I’m not setting the best example. But, come on, technically I still have 8 more hours to get it done. Of course, this situation tonight is not ideal and highly ironic given the topic of this post, but having a weekly deadline at least forces me to get it done. I also add other boundaries, such as my office closing at 10pm and not taking my computer home, so actually I only have 10 more minutes to finish up. But still, if I can’t finish by 10pm and I’m really stuck, I can take my computer home with me on the subway and keep working. Not ideal, but it sure beats a 5:00am scramble. Setting mini-deadlines leading up to the big deadline can help to prevent an overwhelming scramble and poor job at the last minute.
- REWARD YOURSELF: After I’m finished this post, in the next 5 minutes, I’m going to head home to watch a cheesy show about a Mountie and teacher in the early 1900s Western Canada on Netflix. The best part of all of that is that once I submit this post, it will be completely off my mind and I can enjoy my tv time and have a restful sleep without worrying about how I’m going to wake up at 5:00am to finish my post. Procrastinating by watching Netflix is fun too, but whatever you’re avoiding is lurking in the back of your mind, infringing on your R&R. It’s so much nicer when you can really enjoy a reward AFTER completing a task instead of using it as a distraction.
Yeah, so we all know a lot of these tips. In fact, you may be procrastinating by reading this article on procrastination RIGHT NOW! That’s totally what I would do. Oh well…no one is perfect. We’re all a work in progress. In fact, I went back the next day to edit this post one more time after it was online because I noticed some typos.
It takes time to break old habits and replace them with old ones (20-something days according to many lifestyle programs), so congratulate yourself for taking the first step and realizing you have a problem that you want to change. Use that procrastination moment to your benefit and start to implement some of these simple steps to get yourself back on track. Just start, do your best, and let go… That’s really all we can do every day. 🙂
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