Procrastination. We all do it, and yet it doesn’t do us any good.
Burying your head in the sand isn’t going to make your workload disappear — it’ll only increase! So, how can we motivate ourselves to put our noses to the grindstone, get the work done, and feel good about it?
Procrastination is an emotional reaction to a task at hand. The more averse you feel toward the task, the more likely you are to resist it and procrastinate. Tasks that you are averse to make you feel negative emotions, your procrastination instinct kicks in and sets out to improve your mood by doing anything that’ll make you feel good.
In this case, avoiding the task = feeling good. But, however easy it makes your life in the short-term, procrastination is a destructive habit that has a negative effect on goal achievement and future success.
Rewiring your brain to be less averse to your workload can be surprisingly simple, and can even be fun. With a few small changes to the way you approach your work, you’ll be feeling far more prepared and willing to take on the tasks in front of you.
Here are four creative ways to beat procrastination and tackle your workload head-on.
1. Give yourself a pep talk
You may think that talking to yourself is more crazy than creative, but talking to ourselves in our minds is something we do every day. If you’re a serial procrastinator, you’ll know how easy it is to tell yourself “that task can wait until tomorrow” or “I need to finish this; it should be done by now.” This negative self-talk is detrimental to productivity and actually prevents you from moving forward.
Instead of talking yourself into not doing something, focus on making your internal dialog more positive. Avoid phrases like “I must do this” or “I should do that.” These types of words imply that you don’t have a choice. Use empowering self-talk such as “I will” or “I choose to.” Changing the vocabulary you use will influence your attitude towards tasks you don’t necessarily look forward to doing.
Take control back and forge a positive path.
2. Take a half step
Thinking about all of the things you have to get done, or how big the task looming ahead of you is can be paralyzing. Put that out of your mind and just do something miniscule.
Anything. A tiny step forward — or even half a step — is all it takes to start chipping away at your to-do list, to gather some momentum, and to start feeling like everything is more manageable. This could be as simple as physically writing a task list, cleaning your desk, or responding to some emails.
You’ll be surprised how much weight a little task like this can lift off your shoulders. A half step serves to point you in the right direction and show yourself that every little bit of effort makes a difference. Breaking a task down into small parts makes it manageable and gives you more confidence that you are capable of doing it.Don’t believe that tasks are an all-or-nothing effort. Click To Tweet
3. Register your commitment
Sometimes, procrastination can be cured simply with incentive.
This incentive can come in many different forms such as, “If I go for a run today, I can eat dessert tonight.” A very effective way of breaking the procrastination barrier that we often don’t give much credit to is public commitment. A basic email to a colleague stating that you will have something done by a self-imposed deadline will almost certainly guarantee that you’ll put your head down and complete it.
A more formal platform for this public commitment is the website stickK. Here, you register your goal and put in some money. If you complete your goal, you get the money back. If you don’t, the money gets donated to a charity that you dislike. The incentive — or disincentive — created by programs like stickK is a very strong motivator! Not only are you potentially donating money to a cause you can’t stand, you are publicly accountable for the task you said you would complete.Don’t underestimate the power of pride for getting things done! Click To Tweet
4. Send a message to your future self
Unfortunately for those of us who procrastinate, we’re also very bad at imagining our future selves — the ones who have to deal with the work that our present selves are avoiding. Bridge the gap between your current and future self by imagining yourself tomorrow, next week, or next year.
Visualizing yourself then helps you to appreciate why you should do your work now. To really capitalize on this phenomenon, write a message to your future self with futureme.org and explain how your current actions will make your future better. This simple exercise is highly effective in encouraging you to get your work done now rather than putting it off.
Recognize that there is a connection between your current and future self, and there are future consequences for decisions you make today.
Procrastination is something that we all deal with at some point. Mustering the motivation to stop this avoidance tactic may seem difficult, but with these small yet effective tips, you’ll find yourself more productive in no time.
Indulge in positive self-talk, take small steps, register your commitment publicly, or send a message to your future self. Or, try all 4.