Five Ways to Beat Procrastination Today

A couple weeks back, Tanushka of That Desperate Friend blog asked me to write a post about procrastination.

I said I would, but I kept putting it off.

But seriously folks…

(See what I did there?)

Procrastination used to be a big problem for me, but I don’t struggle with it much now.

That’s partly because I enjoy what I do. I work for myself, set my own hours and reap my own rewards.

But it’s also because I follow a few simple tips to keep myself focused.

So I won’t put it off any longer. Here are five ways to beat procrastination. Do it today! Don’t delay!

1. Eat and sleep well

The prefrontal cortex of our brain is in charge of executive functioning. It’s the part that helps us set goals, focus and make good decisions. But the PFC is resource-intensive. When we haven’t had a good night’s sleep or haven’t eaten in a while, we don’t have enough energy to run all parts of our brain at full capacity. So our brain shifts resources away from the PFC to prioritize “essential services” like breathing.

This leaves us feeling groggy, or hangry (hungry-angry) and unfocused. In this state, it’s almost like we have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Focusing becomes harder and procrastination more likely.

2. Take time to plan

I find it’s best to plan the next day in my bullet journal at the end of the previous day, but you can also do it when you first start your day. Planning means setting a realistic list of what you want to accomplish in a day, then scheduling it into your calendar. Don’t forget to schedule breaks and to build time into your day for non-work related tasks, things like getting some exercise or calling a friend. For projects that will take longer than a day, it’s important to set a deadlines not just of when you’ll be finished but also deadlines for smaller steps along the way.

A plan is a contract with yourself. That doesn’t mean you should be inflexible with your plan. Successful people pivot all the time. But it means that you’re making an explicit decision to alter course, not being sucked into a YouTube vortex of baby elephant videos.

3. Hide the distractions

When it’s time for work, you want to make it nearly impossible for you to do anything but work. Close all the browser tabs except the one you’re using. Hide your phone across the room or in your bag. And most importantly, turn off all the notifications. It’s very hard to resist the urge to check a “ding” even though the vast majority of texts, emails and Facebook messages are not urgent, important or satisfying.

4. Focus on progress, not perfection

Sometimes procrastination sets in when we’re not satisfied with the quality of work we’re producing. When we start to feel bad, we seek out quick hits of pleasure by checking Instagram or playing Geometry Dash. When this happens, the key is to reframe the task. Focus on getting it done, not getting it done perfectly. Most of the time, if you push through, it will turn out better than you expect. And you can always revise later.

5. Reward yourself

If you’ve scheduled three hours to write, publish and promote a blog post, but you get it done in two hours, you’ve earned yourself an hour to do with as you please. Take time to read a novel or go for a walk. You’ll probably find that you’ll choose to spend this bonus time in much more rewarding ways than you would have if you were procrastinating. Knowing that you can “win” this bonus time is a great incentive for pushing through and getting something done faster.

What about you? What hacks do you use to avoid procrastination?

30 comments

  1. I can’t believe you did this. Thank you so, so, so much. I didn’t think you would pay attention to my request, but the fact that you did has inspired me to be more productive now. To justify your effort.
    And I think, after reading this, lack of sleep, and being disheartened quickly, are the major two reasons for me procastinating. Nevertheless, I will do better now!
    P.s. Could you please offer some insight on the picture? It seems rather quirky. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Good points. It seems to me the hardest thing sometimes is to actually realize you’re procrastinating, so you have to be focused on what you want to accomplish (and in what time frame). Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Thanks for this! I have deadlines to meet every week but I also practically work on my own schedule. Sometimes it is hard to just focus on the task at hand and get the job done. So thank you for this practical help!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Most of my anti-procrastination strategies have to do with the reward system (my reward usually TV) but I also often get things done by thinking about how much worse they’ll be if I wait until last minute. I’m a student and I can’t imagine doing projects the night before, so as unpleasant as it may be, I’ll start early because I’ll do anything to avoid last minute stress and panic and rush.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Thanks Keith. I too am a serial procrastinator and have just written a post on the same topic actually. John Wooden, the legendary college basketball coach, provides a lovely perspective that seems to help whenever I find myself procrastinating – “Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming”. It instantly helps to shake off any fear of failure and being judged, whatever you’re doing at the time.

    Like

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