How to Stop Procrastinating
If you’re a chronic procrastinator, you’re familiar with the pain and stress that goes hand in hand with leaving things to the last minute. Even if you want to accomplish or finish a task, you’re likely having trouble getting started in the first place! There are several strategies that can help you stop procrastinating right now (so read fast!), as well as lifestyle changes you can make to avoid future procrastination.
1. Write Down your Goals and Give Yourself Deadlines
Make a record of all the tasks you need to accomplish. The list should include both short-term tasks you need to finish daily and weekly, as well as long-term goals that may take months or even years to accomplish. Seeing it written down will help you plan out the various actions needed to meet all your goals.
Put this list on paper. Even if you use your phone for all of your other lists, from groceries to birthday wishes, don’t put this list on there. The act of writing out your tasks is key to thinking through how to finish them.
So many people get trapped in the cycle of “Someday, I’ll organize my notes,” or “I’ll get to that math homework eventually.” The truth is “someday” and “eventually” never come. It’s important to set a specific date for when you want your goals to be accomplished.
2. Break your Goals into Small Pieces
The bigger your goal or the change you want to make, the more quickly it can send you into overwhelm. So if your goal feels daunting, break it into manageable, bite-sized steps. Indeed, instead of thinking about everything you have to do like one big obstacle, break it all down into tiny pieces. You’ll be able to get started on the smallest crumb and go forward from there.
For example, instead of thinking, “I need to finish this essay by 10 PM tonight,” tell yourself, “I’m going to make a short outline, fill that in, and then look for quotes.” You can also consider trying a specific technique like pomodoro, where breaks happen at planned intervals
Avoid making a long, disorganized to-do list. This is just setting yourself up for failure. Instead, create subcategories like “Home,” “Work,” “Family,” and “Fun” and just try to cross off a few entries from each list every day.
3. Start your Day with the Hardest Tasks
Make yourself a plan in the morning and pick the hardest task first. You’ll be most energized in the morning once you’ve eaten breakfast and woken up fully. Tackle the hardest thing on your docket right then. It’s hard to do something that you don’t want to do. But guess what? Once you do it, it’s over! You’ll feel better once it’s done, and then you can move on to a few easier tasks for the rest of the day.
This usually works, but don’t forget to adapt your work to your personality. Figure out when you are most motivated and alert and plan out your day so you use this time best. For example, if you’re a morning person, do your toughest work right after you wake up. On the other hand, if you tend to be groggy in the morning, you risk making careless errors or frustration by going headfirst into a difficult task.
4. Reward Progress
You’re probably dreading the next however many hours you need to finish this task. Just tell yourself that when it’s over, you get to celebrate with one of your favorite things. Use that anticipation to push yourself through the pain.
Set up a reward system to ensure you celebrate progress and small successes as you go along. Whether a fun activity with friends, or a treat for yourself, make it something that acknowledges your progress and effort.
By putting some rewards after little efforts, you’ll gain motivation to do them and it will result in a significant gain in efficiency!
5. Give Yourself a Pep Talk of Motivation
“Self-talking” is a great way to calm yourself down, get focused, and meet your goals. Talk to yourself, using your name. Tell yourself that you can (and will) do this.
Self-talk by saying something like, “Jenny, I know this week has been hard and you’re tired. You’ve written a million essays before, and you’re going to rock this.”
You can also ask yourself questions: “Jenny, why are you nervous about this? You know you can handle it.”
Self-talk out loud if you can. It’ll also work in your head if you’re in a public place.
Written by Elisa – 09/10/19