By Guest blogger, Nicola Rankin. A few months ago I had a really unproductive week (yes, a whole week). At first I thought the problem was the work was really hard and I wasn’t feeling well. But the real problem was procrastination.
It was a tough week. But my response was to turn away from the important work which, of course, makes things worse.
That week of procrastination cost me a lot: financially, due to lost work hours; but also emotionally, when I spent a whole week filled with dread, feeling sluggish, unmotivated, unproductive and losing self- confidence. At the end of all that, my work was still there, waiting.
It’s no big deal if this happens only occasionally, but procrastination can easily become habitual. Especially for those of us who work from home, we must treat procrastination seriously. And telling ourselves to stop procrastinating simply doesn’t work.
Procrastination: habitually avoiding discomfort
Procrastination happens when we avoid discomfort by seeking something more familiar and pleasant, which could be checking social media or emails, non-hungry eating, or doing other work tasks that seem easier.
First, we must delve into what’s causing the discomfort we’re avoiding. You may already have a good idea – it could be a task that seems too difficult, too large and overwhelming, too boring, or even just doesn’t seem that important.
Why our mind turns away from the task at hand
Hate procrastinating? It’s time to tackle it. For at least a few days, keep notes on what was going on just before you started to procrastinate.
First, write a list of the things you do when you are procrastinating.
When you find yourself about to do one of those things (or once you realise you are doing them), pause and note down:
- The approximate time
- What you were doing just before you started procrastinating
- How you were feeling
- The procrastinating activity you did
- How that made you feel
- Other ways you could have addressed how you were feeling.
Don’t take too long, just jot down what pops into your head. At this stage, we’re simply examining our triggers rather than trying to stop.
You can continue procrastinating, if you wish! If your brain is as sneaky as mine, then you’ll need to tell yourself you can continue procrastinating or you’ll stop yourself doing the exercise. So do the exercise and allow yourself to continue with your comfort activity. For now!
After a few days, you’ll know what triggers procrastination.
Procrastination begone: strategies to break the cycle
These different strategies work for different triggers but a combination of these different strategies works really well.
Use intelligent reasoning to motivate yourself
When we lose sight of why we need to do a task, it’s easy to procrastinate. If you feel like other things are more important, then ditch the other task for now and do the more important one. But if it’s something you must do, get clear on why before starting – your brain needs intelligent reasoning to get motivated.
Collaborate and explain
If something is hard, boring or feels overwhelming, then try collaborating with a colleague, or at least ring a friend who’s willing to talk about it. Often a fresh perspective reinvigorates us or helps us chunk the task down.
The simple act of explaining our task to someone else can give us insight into what we need to do. Clarity is great for motivation.
Chunk it down
If a task is overwhelming or difficult, chunk it down into smaller, more manageable tasks. This well known strategy makes the task far less daunting. It’s also particularly effective in combination with the next technique.
The Pomodoro technique is setting a timer for 25 minutes of focused work and then taking a quick break (then repeating this). It’s really important to use the break to move, perhaps with some quick exercise or stretches, because sitting for long periods will lessen your productivity.
Experiment with the number of minutes to work for and the type of break to take to find out what works for you. And be honest – does spending your break checking Facebook reinvigorate you for your next task? Do whatever works to rejuvenate you.
When you’ve completed a task, no matter how small, celebrate! Do something that makes you feel good for a moment, whether that’s telling someone you nailed your task, play an upbeat song and dancing (woo hoo!). Celebrating makes us feel successful. When we feel successful, we feel more motivated, energised, and competent – all highly useful for combating procrastination.
About Nicola Rankin
Hi, I’m Nicola, Chief Habit Wrangler. I’m a busy working mum transforming lives, one simple habit at a time. I’ve experienced massive life improvements through small habit shifts and now, I’m bringing my expertise to you at HabitSculptor.com. When you learn how habit change can help you achieve goals, you can experience mind-blowing self-confidence and change the entire trajectory of your life.