Updated: Sep 16, 2020
Here is my video:
[Here the transcription]
Ah! The sweet art of procrastination!
The ability to have something to do, ignore it until it becomes almost imperative, use alarms, calendars, plans and reminders, and yet find a thousand different ways to leave it undone.
Even though some levels of procrastination denote a remarkable talent indeed, sometimes we have to put aside our skills of distraction and get things done.
And since I’ve been a master procrastinator for a long time, I’ve had to learn first hand how to be productive and decisive.
First of all, you have to understand why you are procrastinating. There are different reasons why we keep postponing tasks, and therefore we might need different solutions.
The first reason for procrastination is that we’re lazy.
We don’t like the task that we have to do, so we find excuses not to do it.
You need a due date. Deadlines are your best friends, in this case, and the more you are scared of the deadline, the more it works. We all know the last-minute rush to complete a Uni assignment, right? Sometimes having that date set on the calendar is the only way to get things done. It’s ok, use it at your advantage. This solution, though, has 2 limits: The first one is that it’s really stressful for some people. It keeps you in the urgency of the moment and not everyone works at their best under pressure. The second limit is that, like the case of a school assignment, you won’t retain much knowledge or skills from tasks done in a rush. So, if you are studying something really important for your career, for your future or your personal growth, you need to allocate enough time to assimilate the notions or get used to the skills that you’re learning.
Give yourself a reward. Oh yes, positive reinforcement works! You have to make a call that really bothers you and there’s no deadline for it? Decide how you’re going to reward yourself after completing the task. Rewards can be anything that would feel like “a treat”. They can be as small as a piece of chocolate or as big as a holiday overseas. It depends on your resources and on the level of annoyance of the task. Meaning: the bigger and more frustrating the task, the bigger the reward. A new guitar, a new dress, a dinner out with your partner, a picnic with friends, a plant. You know what you desire and what you can afford: name your reward and work hard for it!
The second reason for procrastination is that we get distracted.
We were in the process of doing the task, but then something else comes up and the task remains uncompleted.
Prioritise. If you are handling too many things simultaneously, you have to decide what’s prior and what has to wait.
Use sticky notes. This is how I personally deal with my procrastination. In fact, during the creative process, I get a thousand different ideas at the same time and I get lost. For example: while writing down the tips for this video, I might have thought of tips on how to plan your week, or tips on how to use a vision board to get things done, or how to use a matrix to decide your priorities… Oh, by the way, let me know in the comments below if you are interested in these topics, and I will do specific videos about them! Whenever I get these ideas, I know that, if I expand on them, I will end up missing the initial task. So I always have on my desk a block of sticky notes, or some recycled paper (the backside of your bills will work just fine!) and I write down all the random thoughts that I get, so that I can finish what I was doing in the first place and, at the end of the working day, I develop the random thoughts into proper annotations and I add them to the next month’s content. Easy and incredibly effective!
Focus on what you’re doing. Avoid futile distractions: close the social media pages on your browser, set your phone on ‘silent mode’ and leave it far from you, so that you won’t be able to see any notifications.
Write your plan and stick to it. Sometimes, when we do too many things at the same time, it’s because we don’t have a specific plan in mind. So, schedule your week, your day, your morning. Decide what you’re going to do and follow the plan.
The third reason for procrastination is that the task is too complex and overwhelming.
It’s the same feeling that we have when we need to tide up a room that’s too messy, and we stay there, paralysed, wondering where we should start from.
We stare at our task and we don’t know how to tackle it: it just feels bigger than us.
Break it down into smaller tasks. Nobody wins at the game Risk by completing their goal in one move! You start from one smaller objective (like invading one territory at a time) and then, step by step, you get closer to your final goal and eventually you win the game. The same applies to your personal and professional tasks: divide them into very simple, short actions and create a checklist inside the task. Action after action, you will complete the task sooner than you think!
Explain the task to someone else. In fact, sometimes a task seems too complicated because we don’t have it quite clear in our minds. Try to present it to a friend as if you had to clarify to them how to proceed. This will make it much clearer and doable for you!
The fourth reason for procrastination is that we are “blocked” by our fear of failure.
Ironically, the more we care about a goal, the more the idea of actually achieving it intimidates us and makes us feel vulnerable.
Usually, this happens when we aim to perfection, when we are creating something completely new or when our dreams are at stake.
Find a sponsor. Your partner, you parent, your friend, your teacher: you need to find someone whom you have to report to and who will not be afraid of shouting at you if you didn’t complete your goals. You need to be 100% honest with your sponsor and be accountable for your mistakes. It goes without saying, never take personally their criticism: they are doing it for you because they want to see you succeed.
Done is better than perfect. This is so simple, yet so real.
Keep a record of every time you did your tasks instead of procrastinating. Mark it on your calendar. Then review what you did every week or every month. You will see the productive days and the lazy ones. Which ones made you feel good? Remember: you just need to complete a task once, to start the loop of productivity and get into the right mindset. Just one achievement proves that you can, in fact, do it. It’s like sports: if you can beat your personal record once, you will be able to do it again. That’s for sure.
Here I gave you some practical tips.
Yet, procrastination is basically a lack of motivation and energy that precludes us to do what we want to do and be who we want to be.
So, let me try and give you some motivation:
If you don’t do it today, you will still have to do it tomorrow. So, just do it.
Repetition is the key. The first time you choose not to procrastinate, you will feel like an Avenger! The second time it will still be a great achievement. With practice, it will become a habit. (not a Hobbit, a habit!)
Enjoy your reward. It’s just one task away, what are you waiting for?
Once it’s done, it’s a tick on your calendar. Let’s see how many ticks you can get from now until the end of the year, shall we?
Achieving a goal because you took action instead of procrastinating will make you feel so good about yourself; everything will have a different taste, even dealing with your mother-in-law won’t be such a hassle anymore!
Every time you face your fears and do something about them, you become more and more confident and strong, and the fears, that once were so unbearable, will slowly fade away. Believe me!
What if, by doing this task today, you create lots of new opportunities for yourself? Aren’t you curious about what could happen?
Let me know in the comments below if you found these tips useful.
As always, stay safe.