Overcome procrastination. It’s a simple concept on paper. But like everything in life, it’s not as easy as you think. Being someone who has issues with procrastination both now and in the past, I know this full well.
I’ve tried different techniques and strategies over the years. Some worked for a while, others I struggled with applying. And I can imagine that is the same sort of outcome you will face if you are trying to overcome procrastination.
The reality is that we can’t overcome procrastination entirely. It’s not something that goes away immediately. Instead, we need to learn to manage it.
This is where the strategies I share below come in handy. The key here is to find the best strategies that work for you and use them. To push back procrastination, you have to consider building a system. A system that gets you motivated and keeps you motivated.
Work On A Few Low-Priority Tasks First
This is the strategy that works best for me. Paired with a few other strategies I’ll outline below, this helps me in being productive.
All this strategy entails is to start off with some of the most simple tasks that you have to do today. While some people would argue handling the most demanding and most annoying tasks works, there are arguments to be made on this simplistic route.
First of all, handling small tasks can build momentum. Instead of tackling a massive project, you’re tackling bits and pieces that’ll keep you energized. For me, doing these small tasks helps me in getting into a workflow.
Doing a few 5-minute long tasks can lead me into writing an article (a 1-2 hour project) or doing work for a client. This same principle works for you.
The second reason this works goes back to doing larger tasks. While tackling the toughest and annoying tasks works, they often drain you. For me, they’re actually mentally straining and there are many others that go into this boat. This happens because you’ve taken on too much stress and you feel overwhelmed.
Overall, this strategy has helped me in getting into a workflow and focusing on my work. The only other thing I will say is don’t fill your day with these tasks. Focus on them only when you want to get back into a workflow state.
Handle Hard Tasks During Peak Times
While I don’t think doing hard tasks first is ideal, it’s important to do them during your peak productivity times. Now each person has their own peak state: an allotted time where one is most productive.
Whether it’s in the morning, afternoon, or evening, you need to identify when you are most productive. During that time, you want to be leveraging your work to the best of your ability. And part of that is getting a good chunk of a hard task out of the way.
This strategy is great for several reasons. First of all, it helps you to identify when you work best. Why is this so important? Well understanding yourself on a work level is key for being an entrepreneur, but also a good worker in general.
Second, when you’re in your peak state, you have more focus on the tasks at hand. Paired with some other strategies I have below, you can gain tremendous momentum, focus, and satisfaction out of finishing a difficult task.
Give Yourself A Reward
Ever since I’ve started my business, I’ve been a huge fan of taking breaks. It’s also one other strategy that the famous Richard Branson follows as well. Taking breaks provides a tremendous amount of benefits too.
Point is, taking breaks ties into this strategy of providing yourself with a reward after you complete a task. Mind you the reward has to be within reason (something I didn’t really embrace until much later), however rewards can keep you focused and working on completing the task.
Rewards though don’t always need to be something physical like taking a break. There can be letting yourself feel the satisfaction of having something complete. Or maybe you’re compelled for a larger reason. Whatever the case is, you want a reward that’s reasonable and keep your energy high so you can overcome procrastination.
Section Your Day In Blocks
This is something I need to do more these days: setting specific times for certain things. I kind of have this structure in my head seeing as I have very few tasks I need to do during the day. But even in my case, having a schedule can help you stay grounded.
Often when we lose momentum, it’s because we don’t know what to do next. Or maybe we’ve finished everything on our list, but still, want to do more.
Setting aside allotted time to specific things can give your life some structure and help you sort your priorities.
On top of that, when we give ourselves specific time frames for specific tasks, we have a tendency to do as much as we can in that allotted time. It’s called Parkinson’s Law:
Work expands based on the time allowed to complete it.
If you put yourself into a frame of mind that you only have so much time for a task, you’ll focus on the essentials. You won’t waste time on distractions, or other things during that time. It’s raw focus.
Make A To-Do List
Along the same vein as scheduling blocks, I use to-do lists. Now some people groan at this strategy or tell me it’s an ineffective tool and all I have to say is this:
To-do lists don’t work if you’re using them wrong.
In fact, the people I know who have sworn off to-do lists are people who used them incorrectly. So before I get into my reasoning, here is what you must do to make an effective to-do list:
- Only assign 3-5 tasks at most each day.
- The items should be some of the most pressing tasks you want to get done.
- Get into the mindset that completing the list will give you satisfaction for the rest of the day.
From this list of criteria, you’ll notice to-do lists very much focuses on our mindset. This is key because procrastination is also a thing of the mind. To-do lists – when done correctly – can help us overcome procrastination in various ways.
I went with fewer tasks as it forces people to put the most important tasks on their list. This is key because whenever we complete a task, we often get a shot of dopamine. Dopamine is a feel-good drug our brain produces.
It’s also highly addictive.
This experience often gets people to put a tone of small tasks on their plate, just so they can get that dopamine rush. However, as I mentioned above, filling your day with small tasks isn’t a good strategy.
By limiting the amount, you’re putting down the tasks that really matter. You’ll still get that rush, but it’ll feel more deserving. It’ll also get you into the mindset of doing more challenging tasks.
The other aspects I mentioned start to nurture your mindset. It allows you to sort out your priorities and focus on what’s most important. And if you neglect those duties, it starts to affect you.
I know this from my own experiences as I’d like to be making videos, writing more articles, and growing myself as a writer. When I don’t do these things, I feel a bit disconnected from myself. And so I try my best to get back in and do the most I can and strive to get back to that level of productivity.
Put Time Into Perspective
Time is our most valuable resource. But did you know you can use it to overcome procrastination? While what we do with our time is important, I think that measuring how much time we actually have can help in certain cases.
One common excuse that we use when we procrastinate is that we don’t have time to do the task right now. That or we tell ourselves we’ll do it some other time. Either way, there is a time element involved.
However, I bet that when you make that excuse, you don’t actually consider how much time you have during the day right? I know I’ve done this in the past and have caught myself.
I did that because I put my own time into perspective.
Barring sleeping, eating, and working a full-time job, we actually have a small portion of our time to do what we want. Small being about six to seven hours on weekdays and 14 to 15 hours on weekends. This is, of course, presuming you work a forty-hour workweek, sleep for eight hours daily, and take an hour or two total to prepare and eat all meals that day.
Point is, if a task takes you only a few hours to complete, that’s small compared to the amount of time that you have every day. Spreading out the length of a task over the week can shrink the time to smaller and less intimidating amounts as well.
And what’s even better is if you don’t follow a traditional schedule like that, you’ll likely have more time than this.
Focus On Moving The Needle
This piece of advice is for the perfectionists. Whether you have a little bit or you are one, it’s okay. I definitely get it. However, it’s something that you need to be working over. Whether it’s developing your mindset more or using these strategies, it’s key to making progress.
Focus on moving the needle is a phrase I use that means to keep moving. No matter the task assigned or pursuing your own goals. Keep moving.
This advice is important because, for many of us, we become bothered by small inconsistencies. That or we don’t even bother trying something because we’re not qualified. I’m here to say that it’s okay and it’s something that you need to work out.
We’re not perfect beings and we will make mistakes. But just because there is that potential doesn’t mean we should give up before we start. No. Keep moving forward and grow from the experience. And this means working with what you got and making the most out of the situation.
We see procrastination as a bad thing. And while that is certainly true, we often become harsh on ourselves when we fall for this. Much like what I said in my last point, many people can give up on a task before even starting.
That could be procrastination, or maybe it’s low self-confidence and self-esteem. There isn’t a huge difference between those results and what they cause to people over a long period of time.
This is why forgiving yourself is key. It moves you away from the negative self-talk. You know that deep down, you are not that person you say you are when you’re in that mindset. So forgive yourself and move on.
Rephrase Your Self Talk
And on the note of self-talk, perhaps changing what you say when tackling something can help to. A lot of people say that they “need to” do something. This suggests that the person doesn’t have a choice in the matter at all.
The reality isn’t like that.
Everything in our lives is a choice. This isn’t to say that there are no consequences, however, we ultimately have a choice on what we do and don’t do. So instead of saying we need to do something, say this instead:
“I choose to do this.”
“I want to do this.”
This implies you are making a choice. That you are in control over your own workload. By doing this, you are reducing your risk of self-sabotage. After all, you do want to do the task, right?
Distractions can break up your flow and concentration and they come in all kinds of different ways. This can lead to us procrastinating as we put our attention to other things or people instead of what we want to get done.
Fortunately, there are plenty of tools to help with reducing distractions and overcome procrastination. Combined with the next strategy I’ll be sharing consider some of these:
- Install an app that’ll block certain sites during specific hours. Here is a list of apps that block websites.
- Alternatively, you can turn off wifi if you don’t absolutely need it to do your job.
- Make a rule to not work near a television.
- Only check your email during certain periods of time and only for a small period of time.
- Follow the same point with social media as well if it’s an issue.
Change Your Environment
If you have the luxury of working wherever you like, definitely leverage it. If one place is too distracting, make a point of changing your environment. This can overcome procrastination easily.
A shift in scenery can breathe new life into your work but also yourself as well. It’s why I make a point of going out to a café and working from time to time.
Our environments affect us a lot and depending on what’s in it will affect our work as well. If you work in your room like myself, keeping it clean can help in boosting your productivity. Or if you are working outside of your room, make sure it’s a place where you know that’ll work for you.
Regardless of who you are, I think it’s important if you have the option to have no converging environments to take advantage of that. Once environments clash (like my office is my bedroom at the time of writing this), it can create conflict. This conflict could very well be procrastination amongst other things.
Remind Yourself Of Your “Why”
Why do you want this task completed?
Why are you putting this off?
Asking yourself questions can help you to overcome procrastination. Specifically, questions that begin with “why.” These types of questions are powerful as they are solid reminders of your own motivations.
You are answering to yourself in this case, so if you seriously are brushing the question off, that task isn’t as important to you as you’d think. And by forcing yourself down that road, you’re only pushing yourself further away from where you want to go.
I can speak from experience on this. After all, I moved in the wrong direction for seven years of my life. I ended up lost, confused, and with a degree I still do not care at all about to this day.
Asking yourself why you’re pushing something off or why you want something complete helps. It allows you to tap into that reason and to get excited and motivated once more.
Have Someone In Your Life
Not necessarily a romantic partner per se, but having someone to keep you accountable will help. It needs to be someone you can trust and talk to about your work or tasks.
It’s a buddy system, but it’s an effective tool to keep the ball rolling. It does this because if you have someone interested and invested in your work and what you do, you’ll start caring more too.
This is a strategy that I use with my overall goals I want to achieve. Having someone that’s keeping an eye on me and cares about what I’m doing helps. It means I have someone I can talk to after a week and show off my accomplishments and progress.
And if I don’t have much to show, the conversation can help me get back to reality and focus on what I can do better.
It’s a solid system.
Practice The Zierganick Effect
One other aspect of a procrastinator is that we not only avoid things, but we might focus on the wrong things in a task too. While I have talked about Parkinson’s Law above, this strategy can work as well.
The idea behind the Zierganick effect is that once we focus on a task for a few minutes, our brain becomes laser-focused on finishing the task. This, in essence, is the strategy: focus on the first few minutes of a task.
The reality is that the hardest part isn’t the overall task, but rather starting it. So if we put our efforts in convincing ourselves to do something, we’re already past the hardest part.
So how do you convince yourself to overcome procrastination? Well, a lot of the strategies that I’ve given are good persuasive tools.
Don’t Overinflate Tasks
Procrastination is truly a mind game and if you want to overcome procrastination, knowing the techniques is key. One final thing that our brain tends to do is overinflate tasks.
We tend to over-dramatize tasks, projects and more. It’s one of the oldest tricks around. Fortunately, to overcome this, I’d turn to the strategies that I’ve mentioned. If we can knock down our excuses with sound logic and get ourselves to focus, we can overcome procrastination.
And in cases where we overinflate tasks, we can start breaking it down by acknowledging that we do this. That we do have a tendency to overinflate tasks. And that’s okay.
Because by acknowledging we are doing this, we allow ourselves to breathe. We pause and stop ourselves. This allows us to apply one of the many strategies I mentioned on here, amongst many others.
And these strategies work. I’ve overcome procrastination time and again with some of these strategies. And I’ll continue to do so. This leads me to think that you can overcome these too.
Let’s Overcome Procrastination Together!
Procrastination is something that we do on occasion. While it’s bad, we shouldn’t be down about ourselves. During these times, it’s important to focus on ourselves, our mindset, and our priorities.
And sometimes we need someone to talk to about all this stuff too. So know that if you are stuck procrastinating, don’t feel bad. We’re all in this. And if you want to talk, feel free to send me an email. I’ll be happy to respond at any time.
To your growth!
Eric S Burdon