You may be all too familiar with the problem that is procrastination. It’s something we all struggle with from time to time. But how can we effectively overcome procrastination so we can be more productive? You may have tried dealing with this problem before but found that nothing seems to work. Before we delve into the steps to beat procrastination, let’s first attempt to understand the causes of procrastination.
When you’re about to procrastinate, you are presented with two choices: immediate or delayed gratification. What does this mean? With instant or immediate gratification, you can do what’s convenient and comfortable now and then do your task later. With delayed gratification, you start working on your tasks and then choose to reward yourself once you’re finished.
For many of us, it’s more tempting to set things aside and do whatever it is that needs to get done later. You may choose to watch a movie, play video games, or sleep. You think that you’ll be more inspired to work on your task after a few hours or a few days. However, the truth is that you’ll never feel motivated enough to do something difficult. You have to choose to do it.
Working on something now or at a later time won’t change the fact that it’s going to be tedious and difficult. So, why not choose to do it now? When you decide to start working on something sooner, you’ll save yourself from the stress that you will feel if you find out that you don’t have enough time left to finish it. Instead of avoiding your work or chore, do it now and then reward yourself with a good movie or a treat.
The effects of procrastination might not be immediately visible, but they can be crippling in the long term. For example, if you suffer from procrastination at work, not only will you annoy your coworkers who may be relying on your parts of a project before they can start theirs, your manager may choose to fire you because you’re the blockage in their efficiency. If you’re always procrastinating going to the dentist, you’ll get a cavity. Or if you procrastinate cleaning the house, you might get cockroaches.
If you find it challenging to convince yourself to do what you need to do, here are four simple steps to overcome procrastination.
It will be much easier for you to accomplish your goals if they are clear and precise. Sometimes, we think, “I must finish this project.” What you can do instead is to break it into specific and easy steps so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. You can start by writing the steps you need to take to finish one phase of the project.
For example, if you need to write an essay for school or a report for work, you can start with a list of steps. You may write, “Prepare materials or sources of information,” “Check instructions for the essay,” “Create an outline,” and so on. If you do things this way, it will be much easier for you to know what it is you need to do. It is also gratifying to cross off the steps you’ve already performed and finished.
The motivation you need to have to finish a task isn’t something external. You should be able to find it within yourself. How will you feel once you’ve finished that project or report? You will most likely feel relieved, satisfied, and fulfilled. Now, imagine all those positive feelings and how good it feels to finish everything on your to-do list.
Whenever you need motivation for working, imagine those positive feelings. If you ever find yourself slacking off, imagine how you’ll feel if you work on something last-minute. Won’t you be panicking? You’ll probably feel anxious, stressed, and unfocused. These negative feelings can also persuade you to start working because you’ll want to avoid experiencing them. Whatever your motivation may be, use them well so that you can keep moving forward.
It can be very challenging to work all by yourself and stay motivated. What you can do is invite a classmate, friend, or colleague to work with you. You can help each other by giving encouragement and motivation to one another. You can even have a friendly competition to help push you to complete your tasks.
If you don’t have anyone you can invite to work with you, there’s another way to make you feel motivated and less lonely while working alone. There are now so many online videos of people studying or working. Just search “Study with Me” videos on YouTube. They’re videos of people as they’re studying or working. There’s no talking so that you won’t be disturbed.
You can play one of those videos, and it would be as though you’re working with someone. Whenever they have a break after an hour of studying, you can have a break as well. And then go back to what you were doing. This technique can definitely inspire you to engage in deep work.
Now that you have the steps, the motivations to do them, and a partner to work with, it’s time to commit. Make yourself a promise that you will perform your tasks to the best of your abilities because it reflects who you are as a person. When you commit to your goal, you will have to answer to yourself. If you do things sloppily, the person who will be most disappointed is yourself.
To avoid this from happening, commit to working on your tasks every day. Do something about it so that there will be movement and progress. In a week, there will be a lot of work done. If you need to work on an essay for two weeks, commit to writing for half an hour every day for one week straight. You’ll have so much time left for revisions after you’ve finished.
The secret to beating procrastination is to divide and conquer. A task only seems daunting because you think it’s challenging to do. But once you can break it down into smaller and doable steps, it’s going to be much easier. Follow the steps we’ve shared here, and you’ll be sure to overcome procrastination any day.
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