Procrastination is something that has affected all of us at some stage. Whether you find yourself failing to turn essays in on time, or putting off going for a run (that marathon ain’t gonna run itself, by the way!) the negative effects of procrastination are numerous.
The good news is that you can beat it, and reclaim your focus and motivation in the process. In this article you are going to learn five effective methods to stop procrastination in its tracks. Keep reading to discover just how to reclaim your focus … and get your groove back!
1. Set An Inspiring (But Realistic) Goal
One of the most powerful ways to motivate yourself to take action is by setting a goal to work towards. Many people who suffer badly from procrastinate lack focus and direction in life; having a goal is the easiest solution for this.
To ensure that you are always prepped to take action, you should ideally have a few goals:
* One short-term goal (e.g. completing an essay by next week)
* One mid-term goal (e.g. running your first half-marathon by year’s end)
* One long-term goal (e.g. attaining a master’s degree in your chosen subject)
Whenever you accomplish a goal, you need to come up with a new one. A rolling stream of goals is going to keep you laser-focused and motivated.
Just make sure that any goal you do set is realistic. For example, if you’ve never so much as gone for a jog in the past year, then it would be unrealistic to expect that you will run a marathon successfully next month. A more realistic goal would be to say that you want to run two miles by the end of next month.
Having a realistic goal is crucial, because unrealistic goals often lead to failure. The last thing you want if you’re trying to beat procrastination is to fail at a goal – this does not set you up well to be motivated and enthusiastic!
2. Surround Yourself With Motivated People
There’s a cult classic movie called Trainspotting, in which the main character leaves his lay-about friends who are holding him down from succeeding and moves off in search of a new life. He quickly finds his feet and starts witnessing immensely positive changes – due in part to the more positive company he is now keeping. When he returns to his hometown, his friends that he left behind are stuck in their same old ways, and still wasting their lives.
This example from Trainspotting is a great analogy for how the people you spend time with can influence your outlook on life. If you are constantly surrounded by unmotivated people (be they friends, colleagues, or family) then this will have a knock-on effect in your life.
Seek out the company of those who inspire and motivate you. Whether there is a colleague at work whose presence always makes you want to strive harder, or a friend who knows how to inspire you, absorbing their positive vibes will help you to beat procrastination.
You don’t need to throw away valuable friendships and acquaintances just for the sake of beating procrastination. However, when you feel you need a little more get-up-and-go, then surrounding yourself with motivated people is one of the safest bets you can make.
3. Eliminate Distractions That Prevent You From Working
I often refer to the 21st Century as the “age of distraction”. From smartphones that give us 24/7 connectivity (and, heaven forbid, our bosses the ability to contact us whenever they want) to social media, to websites designed specifically to distract us from work – there is an unending stream of ways to keep yourself procrastinating and unproductive.
If you are serious about kicking procrastination to the curb, then you need to also get serious about eliminating procrastinations when you are trying to work.
Start by determining what exactly distracts you the most. I used to have a particularly bad habit of browsing message boards when I was trying to work; your personal distractor might be social media websites instead. Don’t ignore physical distractions either, such as office colleagues interrupting your work flow by coming up to your desk to chat.
Once you have identified key distractions, you need to work out how you are going to eliminate them. For digital distractions, such as social media websites, I’m a big fan of using site-blocking tools (such as the StayFocusd browser extension for Google Chrome). Depending on your operating system and browser choices, you might need to research your best option.
For physical distractions, such as noise or interruption from colleagues, you need to get a bit more creative. In the office environment I’m a big fan of using noise-cancelling headphones. You can pick a pair up from somewhere like Amazon for a reasonable price; pop them on, and voila! – No more disturbing background noise. The secondary benefit of wearing headphones while working is that co-workers will be less likely to come up and distract you in person, as they will automatically assume that you’re “in the zone”.
4. Kick The Fear Of Failure
In my experience, one of the biggest contributing factors to procrastination in many people is the fear of failure. It causes a sort of “analysis paralysis”, which prevents you from taking action as you mentally chew through all the ways that what you are about to do could go wrong.
Therefore, if you want to overcome procrastination you need to make a concerted effort to kick the fear of failure. Anxiety about whether you will succeed or not can be a useful tool to prevent you from doing crazy things – and acts as a useful survival mechanism – but when it manifests too strongly it will accelerate your desire to procrastinate.
Remember that most mistakes can be fixed. Chances are that if you fail at something, you will get another opportunity to get it right. Don’t let the fear of failure prevent you from taking action.
5. Ensure Your Lifestyle Factors Are Working In Harmony
The final factor I want to cover that could hold the secret to you beating procrastination is lifestyle.
I’m talking about things such as your diet, the amount of physical activity you perform, and how much sleep you get.
These lifestyle factors (when trending towards unhealthiness) can elevate a preexisting tendency to procrastinate, primarily by lowering your energy levels. After all; if you don’t feel energetic, then you are unlikely to want to do much.
You don’t need to go cold turkey on the food and drink you enjoy. There is no need to force yourself to go to bed by 9pm every night. I’m not asking you to becoming a total gym bunny, and slave away for hours on the treadmill every day.
Slowly striving towards improving lifestyle factors is all that is required. Over time you will notice your energy levels grow, which will in turn spur you on to take action and get things done.
In order of importance, I would suggest that you:
* Ensure you are getting adequate physical activity on a regular basis. Aim for at least 30 minutes daily.
* Reduce the amount of processed foods in your diet.
* Aim for approximately eight hours’ sleep every night.
Procrastination doesn’t have to be a constant blight on your life. By following the practical steps you have learned today, you will be able to take focused action, and reclaim your inner motivation and drive.
James Frankton is a time management and motivation blogger at www.whyamilazy.com – visit his site for more advice about getting the most out of life.