We almost all procrastinate — let’s just get that out in the open. And it’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with that. Our brains need to rest. They simply need balance. The problem occurs when it looks like the procrastination will never end and we never achieve our important, but complex challenges.
In simple cases we can observe from a visual sign of procrastination – the cluttering. When we clutter up pieces of paper, newspapers, clothing (everywhere but not in the closet), leave dishes on the table, etc. we often say that we’ll deal with it later. We overestimate our future ‘me’. It brings us anxiety when the Saturday and the cleaning day is approaching. Instead of feeling free after a long week, we must deal with decluttering. But we could spend less time and less effort if we didn’t procrastinate with clutter in every corner. And this is only on the easy level.
When talking about the big problems that procrastinating brings us, I’m talking about postponing the more important tasks. Like life projects, projects that will eventually deliver us a life full of excitement.
Those projects are combined from tens or hundreds of complex, unknown, and often frightening tasks. And because many of them are far too big to deal with, we choose instead to postpone them.
It seems logical to deal only with minor tasks. So we gain and keep momentum. And that’s the most important step I have found so far. Starting on a mini, micro task just to warm up my brain. It could be writing down a few ideas on a piece of paper or on a sticker. Or searching for a book, or blog post that covers my project topic. Just start searching. In the next step I’ll collect a few links. And in the third step I’ll read the shortest post and so on.
Momentum is the foundation.
Other steps to avoid and limit procrastination (not totally avoid, because I’m not against boredom aka procrastination) that I use are:
1. I need to find out what motivates me
If I want to reach a goal, let’s say finish writing a book, but I’m not motivated to sit and type for few hours a day, I have serious problems. Of course I may avoid writing and never reach this dream, but If I truly want to, then I need to find incentives that can help me.
I often find this kind of obstacle when I walk through a huge challenge. For instance I can love writing books and love to publish them and connect with the publisher, but I don’t like the promotion obligations. Well, I need to solve this, because promotion is an incredibly important part of publishing any kind of stuff.
So what can I do? I may connect with a friend and ask for help. Asking doesn’t mean I’m a loser. Asking means I will eventually get closer to a solution. Or I might talk about this problem (it could be a fear) with other authors who have had similar problems in the past.
2. Setting goals and deadlines
I know this may sound a little stressful. My way doesn’t prefer goal setting. Rather, I do what excites me, when it excites me. But sometimes and for some bigger challenges goals are highly recommended and helpful. Especially where the particular project is enormous and we can easily get lost in its various steps.
My problem is still the deadline. It might be something in that word. However I find myself many times trying to push the deadline, mostly because many inevitable tasks appear during the project. It helps if I get some external deadlines (but the stress often increases). Deadlines are important because they put my project in motion.
3. Reward, celebrate
I love to imagine or visualize the accomplished mission, e.g. my newly completed novel on a shelf or reaching 10,000 fans on any social media platform. Admittedly that may sound more like motivation than a reward.
The idea is to come up with small indulgences for hitting those milestones. For instance, buying a new sofa that helps me to write more comfortable, or a fancy pen (for the time when I don’t like to type on my keyboard, but instead on plain paper). The reward could also be a simple celebration with close friends or coworkers.
4. Have a partner
How important is this?
First, it’s easier not to work alone. That doesn’t mean you can’t create a business alone. A partner could be a virtual assistant or accountability partner. Someone you can share your obstacles with, your challenges and what’s holding you back.
In the past I found myself having difficulties with partnering. What I did to correct this was nothing new. I continued doing projects on my own until I could partner with others. But how?
I started to write down tasks, thoughts, the never ending ideas which came to me. I posted it all over my place, on the table I worked at, closets, fridge, my computer screen, practically everywhere. My bag was always full of small paper notes. That’s how I started. And most of the time it worked.
Then one day I needed to organize as I found it difficult to follow and even more difficult to setup ideas that belong together. I started to use a notebook and fill it with hundreds of incentives that helped my projects to move forward. That’s my non-arguing partner. It says nothing, yet helps a lot.
Put the techniques above to work in your daily life and you’re sure to see procrastination dwindle and your personal productivity soar.
Mat Veni is a life hacker but not a hero. Recently he wrote about Procrastination. He’ll tell you more later … or if you want better results on ‘How to Limit Procrastination’.