Procrastination is the demon that haunts every individual at some point or the other.
With so many ‘fun’ and time-consuming distractions, it comes as absolutely no surprise to me that one of the most common and largest hurdles to overcome, especially in the workplace, is procrastination.
It feels odd to watch a group of youthful, healthy and educated people stumbles around a room unable to make any progress on work.
I can go as far as to say that it is highly demotivating – especially as someone who is trying to succeed on my own.
With that being the case, limiting and detaching ourselves from every source of material that may potentially influence procrastination doesn’t seem like an effective or holistic way to remedy the problem.
Which is why I’d like to delve into 3 ways to beat procrastination without completely cutting yourself off from things you may enjoy.
Let’s get right to it, shall we?
1. Set Determinable Goals With Deadlines
Setting a goal to be successful or to work hard is all good and well but they are worthlessly vague when it comes to being productive and beating procrastination.
I like to assign phrases like ‘I want to be successful‘ as a positive affirmation to support my perseverance while I’m working rather than setting ‘success’ as a determinable/definite goal.
Success is a destination.
It is the result of hard work. It is the fortress at the end of the journey. The journey is where goals and commitments matter most.
A goal is a determinable objective. What do you want to accomplish within the next 24 hours or the next 7 days?
My goal is to write and publish a blog post from Monday to Friday without fail. The moment I hit publish on that last post at a predetermined time on Friday, I will accomplish my goal.
When you set goals, always keep in mind two things:
1. Goals are to be detailed and definitive. Anything vague and broad is a dream more so than a goal.
2. Every detailed goal must have a deadline.
A detailed goal is easy to plan for because you know what the end result looks like.
The end result of my blog goal each week is 5 published articles. I can plan for 5 published articles by allocating time every day to research, write and edit a single blog post. I can easily set a minimum amount of articles to publish per day as well as a maximum.
I strongly advise you to set a detailed goal that can be planned effectively.
The next step is to place a reasonable deadline on your goal to attach a sense of urgency, responsibility, and importance onto it.
When I set the goal to lose 10 Kg’s in 4 months, I decided to invest in the home workout system by Shaun T called Insanity.
What I loved about Insanity, aside from the entire program, was the time allocated for each workout.
Because I knew a particular circuit was 40 minutes and a clock was plastered on the screen counting down the time left in the workout, it triggered a psychological response to the effect that I was able to allocate enough commitment, energy, will power and strength to finish that workout.
I knew that in a certain amount of time, my goal for the day would be complete, so I ended up working and getting it done.
That little concept has helped me accomplish many daily tasks over the last 3-4 years that I once procrastinated on competing for a long time.
2. Build Momentum With The 5 Minute Principle
Getting started seems to be the hurdle most people have a problem overcoming. I don’t think it would be reasonable for us to blame ourselves but getting stuck in an infinite loop of planning, adjusting and planning can do more damage than good.
At the foundation of completion is a plan that has been effectively executed.
Acting without a plan leads to aimlessness whereas a plan without action is nothing more than just a plan.
Plans do not create the results they promise. Actions do.
Which is why I have instilled a daily practice which has not only enabled me to take action at will but the problem of getting started seems like something of the past that may never bother me again.
No matter what you are trying to accomplish, try for 5 minutes.
Whether you’re feeling extremely exhausted or demotivated, whether you’ve been procrastinating for the last 2 hours, set a countdown for 5 minutes and start moving around.
As a writer, something I used to battle with is writing an introduction. I would have absolutely no idea where to even begin.
This task becomes increasingly difficult when you’re talking about something new every single day.
Unlike something you study and research about for a long time, writing on something you may not have written about before can be challenging.
Ever since I started implementing the 5 minute rule, I no longer have a problem starting to write.
Later on, when I’m in the groove, I may come back and completely rectify the introduction but I’m only able to do that because I wrote for those 5 minutes, got into the motion of writing and started building momentum.
It takes about 5 minutes for you to truly get into motion.
From exercising to playing the guitar, take action for 5 minutes (no matter how horrible you’re doing) and your body will build on the momentum of motion.
By the end of 5 minutes, your brain would have snapped out of procrastinating and into focusing on the motion you’re doing.
It’s a fairly simple technique and I understand that some people may complain about this being just another “Do It” type of idea but the psychology behind this is to build momentum and beat procrastination through sheer hard force.
3. Implement The Punish And Reward System
No matter how old you can be and how many life experiences you’ve been through, there will always be a piece of your childhood self still inside you.
Childhood is never erased by adulthood. It merely takes a backseat. The minute something inspires the child within us to awaken, he or she takes over and we become the child we used to be.
As children, we did things either because we felt like it or we would be punished or rewarded based on our actions.
If you cleaned up your mess, your parents would reward you. If you didn’t do your homework, you’d be punished by attending detention and making up for it.
That’s how we learned what to do and what not to do.
As kids, there was no silver lining. You either loved what you were doing or hated it. So, if you did something wrong and were made to do something you hated, it would quickly be embedded in your head not to screw up the same way again.
If something brought about a reward like an extra slice of cake, you’d do it as much as you could without being asked.
What’s to say that the punish and reward system won’t be incredibly successful in adults dealing with procrastination?
Sure, if you don’t meet a deadline, your boss would be mad at you.
But, perhaps you’re an expert at talking your way out of trouble. So, external fear may not ring well with you. What you truly need is an intrinsic fear of punishment.
When you’re tasked with getting a job done and laziness sets you back, the thought of punishing yourself by stripping away something you enjoy doing may be the incentive needed to get your butt moving.
If I don’t work out, I simply will not drink any tea for the day. It might not seem like much but I am a tea addict. Without it, I feel miserable. I would rather work my butt off for 25 minutes motivated by the simple thought of enjoying a cup of sweet tea than to be lazy and have to punish myself.
The system is up for tweaking and you can do with it as you please but I highly recommend you instill it from now. Personally, the punish and reward system forces me to take my goals seriously and I love that!
It could make a huge difference in not only beating procrastination but in developing new habits and routines.
In short – Reward yourself for forcing yourself to work and be productive even if you want to procrastinate and punish yourself for failing to be productive by procrastinating.