Procrastination: The act of delaying or postponing something when prompt action would have been better. Often the result of indecision or avoidance.
We all procrastinate from time to time, but we don’t all procrastinate for the same reasons. Some put off tasks because they would rather not be bothered with boring details, some because they are worried they may make a mistake while doing it, while yet others are paralyzed by the size or unknowns of the task.
Whatever our reasons, there are methods that will help us overcome our procrastination habits.
Here are seven simple tips that may help you overcome you procrastination tendencies. Which one will best help you win the fight?
- Change your self-talk. Change your BUT to AND…SO. We often use BUT to give us an excuse to procrastinate. “I wish I could learn to paint, BUT I hate dealing with the fuss of research to find a class” or “I want this report to be great, BUT I don’t have time to make it perfect.” When you hear yourself use a BUT, restate it with an AND instead. “I want this report to be great, AND I don’t have time to make it perfect.” Now you have stated the issue without giving yourself an easy excuse. Now add a SO. “I want this report to be great AND I don’t have time to make it perfect, SO…” This prompts you for a realistic solution that gets you over the urge to procrastinate.
- Accomplish one small task. Sometimes we feel crushed under the weight of all the little tasks we’ve been putting off. Or maybe we just need to reprogram our brains to act instead of procrastinate. Start your day by accomplishing one small task you have been putting off. Dust the living room. Make that phone call. Repair the torn blouse. It not only feels good to get that nagging task off your mental list, it gives you momentum to tackle something a little bigger.
- Specify a concrete time. If you have great intentions that never seem to get accomplished, this trick might help. When making to-do lists or promises to others, specify a concrete action and date. Instead of “clean out fridge” restate it as “clean out fridge before lunch.” Instead of saying, “I will get back to you” say, “I will check my schedule and let you know by Friday.”
- Make an intentional mistake. What?!? Have I gone crazy? For those who have powerful perfectionist tendencies, mistakes can be paralyzing, leading to procrastination. By choosing to make intentional small mistakes, perfectionists can learn that the world does not end when they make a mistake, which in turn gives them the courage to face tasks even when there is a chance of failure. Examples: Arrive at a meeting or doctor’s appointment three minutes late. Make a typo on an office memo. Learn what actually happens when you are less than perfect (which is probably not nearly as dire as you imagine.) By making one intentional mistake each day, you can begin to overcome the dread fear of mistakes.
- Answer the what-if? Some people get stuck imagining the worst possible scenarios, which leads them to put off making decisions or taking an action that involves risk any kind. If the what-ifs paralyze you from taking action, try this: When a what-if pops into your head as an excuse for taking action, don’t leave the question hanging, (which gives you permission to worry and procrastinate). Instead of making an excuse like “What if I get lost on the way?” consider the potential answers: If I got lost, I might be late. (Solution, leave extra early to cover the possibility.) If I got lost, I would need to figure out how to use the maps app on my phone. (So figure it out before you leave.)
- Break it down into manageable chunks. Sometimes a task is paralyzing because it is too big. The task intimidates us into procrastinating because we have no idea where to start. But we don’t need to be afraid of big hairy audacious tasks! We simply need to break them into bite-sized pieces. Maybe we would love to revamp the landscaping, but we never get around to it because it sounds like so much work. Fine. Break that goal down until you create a task that is doable right away, such as: “draw sketches of the yard with different flower bed arrangements” or “research shrubs for shady yards”. Once you’ve taken the first step, the next one will be easier.
- Add fun to a boring task. We all hate doing the boring stuff. Sometimes we can improve our motivation by adding something to make it more fun, or more of a challenge. Play energetic music while you clean the house. Or set the timer for fifteen minutes and challenge yourself to get as many rooms tidied as possible. Turning something into a challenge not only helps you get it done, but reduces the time wasted doing it in a half-hearted manner.