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?