One thing I’ve always prided myself on is the fact that I am not a procrastinator. I’ve always been the type of person who wants to get things done ASAP so that tasks don’t build up and hang over my head as time passes…
…until recently. I’ve become a bit more of a procrastinator than I would like. I often find myself scrolling through social media, watching “just one more” Youtube video, or wandering around aimlessly all in an effort to avoid doing something.
Considering you’re probably procrastinating by reading this blog post on how to stop procrastinating, I’m sure it does.
It happens to the best of us. But I can assure you that learning and applying these 7 tips will be the most productive form of procrastination you’ve done all day. All it will take is a bit of action and you’ll be knocking things off your to-do list in no time!
1. Eliminate distractions
When it comes to distractions, I’d vote technology as the main culprit. There’s no way you’ll ever get anything done with your hand drifting towards your phone to check Instagram every few minutes.
A simple solution I use is turning my iPhone on “Do Not Disturb” when I need to complete something. This prevents notifications, alerts and calls from making noise, vibrating or lighting up the screen. You could also switch your phone to airplane mode or just turn it off. Depending on what it is you’re working on, the same thing applies to other electronics. Unplug! Place them in a separate room if you need to.
Of course, some of your tasks may require the use of electronics. In this case, reduce distractions within the device. Close unnecessary tabs on your computer, delete distracting apps on your phone (don’t worry, you can re-download them later), etc.
2. 5 minute rule
I’m a big fan of to-do lists. I keep a running list in the “Notes” app on my phone and write daily to-do’s in my planner. But sometimes, I can get a little carried away and end up with tons of tiny tasks tacked onto the end of my already lengthy list. Organize the stack of papers sitting on my desk…E-mail that person back…Put away those items I just bought…
If it takes less than 5 minutes, don’t write it down; don’t put it off. Just do it.
If you skip the planning and jump straight to the action when it comes to 5-minute-or-less tasks, you’ll save yourself the overwhelm of a long to-do list later. Completing a few of those little nagging tasks will add up in the end.
3. Get the worst thing done first
So you’ve gotten a few of your 5-minute tasks out of the way. Now, you’re left with things that probably require a bit more time to complete. Instead of leaving the worst task for last, get it done first. The “worst task” generally means the most important one. If all of your tasks are of equal priority, the “worst” may be the task that is most time-consuming.
The longer you put off the worst thing on your to-do list, the longer it will loom over you. Spending hours dreading doing something is time that could be spent actually completing it. Once it’s done and out of the way, the rest of your day will feel like a breeze!
4. Take baby steps
Larger-scale projects can feel daunting when you don’t know where to start…so you end up not starting at all.
Don’t attempt to take on the whole thing at once; break it up. Separate the overarching task into several smaller ones that can be completed one step at a time. The more manageable, the better.
For example, the most intimidating thing that was on my to-do list was: Start a blog. Those three words…”Start a blog”…really don’t mean much.
Instead, I’ve replaced that incredibly overwhelming project with multiple tasks that will work me towards the launching of my blog (1. Choose a blog platform, 2. Register a domain name, 3. Purchase and set up hosting, 4. Write 5-10 “base” blog posts, etc.). If you’re reading this blog post right now (which is a result of my task #4: Write 5-10 “base” blog posts), then my baby steps have added up…and I finally have an up-and-running blog!
The point here: Break down your tasks. As you gain momentum, you’ll begin flying through each step and end up closer to the finish line than you ever expected!
5. Set deadlines
There’s a concept called Parkinson’s Law which states that “work expands so as to fill up the time available for its completion“. In simple terms: the amount of time you allow yourself to complete a project = how long it will actually take you.
For example, if you tell yourself that you have two weeks to complete a task, it will take you roughly two weeks to complete it. If you give yourself two years to complete that same task, your work will expand to fill up the two year period.
If you have no deadline, the time you will complete the task will likely be…never (or at least not anytime soon).
This means that even if a project doesn’t require a deadline, set one for yourself anyway. A deadline will hold you accountable.
For projects that already do have deadlines, it may be a good idea to mentally set an earlier one. If a paper is due on Friday, get it done by Thursday. We often underestimate how long something will take to complete, so you might as well play it safe and give yourself some wiggle room.
6. Work in intervals
Being productive doesn’t necessarily mean working tirelessly for 24 hours straight. Working hard on something for too long will only lead you to feel fatigued and lose focus. Give yourself time to recharge.
There are different ratios of work time to rest time that will suit each person and each task. In some cases, 30 minutes of work : 5 minutes of rest will be the most beneficial; in other cases, 90 minutes of work : 20 minutes of rest will be best. It depends on the situation. However, working for too short of a time (15-20 minutes) may interfere with your flow. Being in a state of “flow” means that you are completely absorbed and engaged in what you are doing.
Find whatever work-to-rest ratio best fits you and your task. Whatever you choose, set a timer during your work interval and stay completely focused throughout the entire duration. During your rest period, grab a snack, stretch, take a walk, play with your dog…whatever will help you to refocus and refreshen your mind.
7. Realize that done is better than perfect
…Annnddd I’ve saved the tip most relevant to myself for last.
Perfectionism kills productivity.
It may sound extreme, but it’s true. Being a perfectionist, I know that my fear of failure acts as a huge roadblock when I’m trying to complete something. I hold myself to such a high standard that nothing ever seems good enough…and as result, nothing gets done.
The creation of my blog has revealed to me how much of a perfectionist (and therefore, a procrastinator) I am. I put off starting this blog for a while in fear that it wouldn’t meet my high expectations. My first blog post on mental health took me months to write, and that doesn’t include the time it took to take and edit the photos, format it, etc. I wanted to plan everything perfectly, make sure each sentence flowed perfectly and choose words that fit perfectly (thesaurus.com was my BFF).
But nothing will ever be perfect. If you’re striving towards perfection, you’re setting yourself up to be unsatisfied. I’ve decided to shift my thinking, and so should you. Continue to have high expectations for yourself, but remember to be realistic. Done beats perfect.
And there you have it! 7 ways to stop procrastinating…right now. Which tip did you find the most helpful?