How To Beat Procrastination

Words by Corina Tan

Putting off to tomorrow what you can do today seems to plague a vast majority of people. The famous tagline ‘Just Do It’ seems to be easier said than done, as procrastination affects almost 95 per cent of the population. If you never seem to be able to get things done, you may benefit from some simple tips that will kick your procrastination habit to the curb.

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Define the task

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In David Allen’s classic title Getting Things Done, he states that, “The vaguer the task, or the more abstract thinking it requires, the less likely you are to finish it.”  In other words, a task needs to be defined so that the goal you are trying to accomplish is very clear. A more precisely defined task will make it easier to set the wheels of progress in motion.

Aim small

While this may seem contrary to the popular stance of aiming big, setting your sights on smaller tasks may be easier than having a big goal that seems difficult and unreachable. When you aim small and realise that these goals are achievable with less effort, you are more likely to finish them quickly and feel the sense of accomplishment as a reward. That emotion will set you on a course of positive determination to take the next small step. Before you know it, those small little steps lead you to completion of a bigger goal.

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The 2-minute decision

Ask yourself if a task can be completed in 2 minutes. If it can, do it right away. If it cannot, schedule another time to get it done. This 2-minute rule means that you don’t have to park it, think about it or look at it again. Cleaning the kitchen seems like a huge task, but a 2-minute chore like taking out the trash or moving dirty dishes to the dishwasher is a good start and is easier to finish.

Set a planning deadline

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Some procrastinators spend so much time in the planning stage that they never get around to completing their task. When strategising how to best tackle a task, gathering information and resources is useful only up to a point when decisions need to be made. If indecisiveness becomes a problem, waiting becomes counterproductive.  Give yourself a time limit – say for example 20 minutes, to decide where and how you will be working on your task and what resources you need. When you reach the deadline, get started immediately.

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Tell someone your goals

Some procrastinators need the last-minute sense of urgency to get motivated, but that does not work when you are your own authority. Make yourself accountable by sharing your goals with someone else.  Tell a friend how you aim to lose weight in 8 weeks, or that you will complete your work report by this afternoon. Use social media to tell others about how you will be painting a wall this weekend. Whatever method you use to get the word out there, knowing that others are expecting results from you may give you the push you need.

Take a minute to do nothing

Psychologists have found that procrastinators sometimes look for non-committal tasks to distract themselves so that they appear busy doing something. This is a form of distraction that regulates negative emotions like a fear of failure. Activities like housework or checking non-urgent emails, is an avoidance of major tasks like tackling a work report or working on an urgent presentation. To stop procrastination, multitasking must stop too. Take a minute to do nothing, close your email, Facebook, and step away from housework. This may help to push distractions away while you focus on the main task at hand.

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Consider your values

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Stopping procrastination requires self-control. A Journal of Personality and Social Psychology study found that the best way to boost self-control is to get in touch with your core-values. Your core-values are what brings meaning to your life like family time, expanding your skillset to progress in your career, reaffirming who you are and what your commitments may be. Your goals are a direct reflection of you and your values. When you consider what they are, you are likely to control your ability to start and complete goals that you have set for yourself.

Imagine the outcome

Eventually tasks will be completed. Visualise and imagine what that will look like and how you will celebrate it. What emotions will you feel and what rewarding experiences await you? The completion of any task is always cause to rejoice, and sometimes just visualising that feeling may be the motivation needed to get you started and be well on your way to the finish.

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This article first appeared in The Peak Magazine.