Procrastination is one of the most popular topics of the self-improvement genre. A majority of us struggle with it on a daily basis, keeping us from reaching our full potentials. Our productivity is severely reduced, and having to rush through things to get them finished at the last minute inhibits us from putting forth our best effort. We all know that procrastination is bad, but our attempts to overcome it often fail. We sit down and try to focus on the task at hand, only to find ourselves becoming distracted a few moments later. Procrastination has become synonymous with laziness, but there are many other reasons why we procrastinate.
Why do you procrastinate? If you don’t think too deeply into it, you might think that each time you procrastinate, there is a unique reason that caused it in each situation. While the reasons may seem unique, they usually have one thing in common: instant gratification. Instant gratification is putting off tasks that make you uncomfortable in exchange for immediate pleasure. Pressing snooze lets you experience a few more minutes of comfort, instead of getting up and starting your day. Turning on the television lets you forget all your troubles and responsibilities, instead of being productive. Skipping a workout keeps you from having to push yourself past your comfort level. If we know a task is going to be difficult, procrastination keeps us from having to deal with it yet. There are countless ways in which we procrastinate, but most involve staying in our comfort zones instead of getting things done.
In order to resist the immediate pleasure of procrastinating, you must realize the internal and external motivators for completing the task, and figure out how to make them stronger to push you to action. A common reason for procrastination is not focusing on why you are truly doing that task. If you are trying to lose weight, think about why you want to. If your immediate response is simply “to be healthy” or “to look good,” you might have trouble just getting started, let alone sticking with it. You have to clearly define all possible sources of motivation in order to maximize your potential success. List every benefit you can think of, no matter how small. The bigger the list, the greater the understanding of why you should actually be doing that task.
If you are procrastinating because you know the task will be difficult, break it down into smaller pieces. If you have a huge assignment to do, focus on just getting started. We can easily become overwhelmed when we have a massive amount of work to do, and this can cause us to put it off entirely. Instead of worrying about how long it will take, just set a timer and work for thirty minutes straight. If any distractions come up, just tell yourself you can deal with them when the thirty minutes is over. After the time is up, be sure to reward yourself for the progress you made. I’ve found this to be a very effective way to get started on any project, since thirty minutes doesn’t seem like a very big commitment, and is far from overwhelming.
Take Action Now: Think about a situation in which you often procrastinate. Identify what is actually causing you to put it off, and then evaluate all of the motivators for the task. If you are having trouble thinking of any, then maybe the task isn’t important after all. Break down the task into parts, and focus on just getting started. Use a stopwatch that beeps or set an alarm for thirty minutes, and begin working. Don’t rely on just looking at a clock, as this will become another distraction. You want to be able to focus all of your attention on the task at hand for the entire thirty minutes. You can keep a pen and paper within reach in case you think of something that needs to be dealt with after the thirty minutes. This will keep you from losing focus and letting your mind wander.