We all have those necessary tasks that we dread doing. Whether it’s a weekly report, tedious data entry, or checking in with an unpleasant client, putting it off is really tempting. But you’ve probably also experienced the negative outcomes of procrastination: the anxiety and pressure that comes with the time crunch, kicking yourself in the head for not leaving enough time, and then settling for a less than high quality deliverable.
Some people claim to get a high from procrastination that kicks them into gear and they produce really great work. If that works for you, every single time, then great. But I guarantee that everyone can benefit from decreasing their procrastination habits from time to time.
So how do we form new habits that make it easier to prevent procrastination? Check out these tips below to learn how you can avoid the temptation of the last-minute mentality.
Learn the art of pre-committing
A lot of people learn to procrastinate in college. Did you ever ‘cram’ the night before an exam? Maybe you had a friend who would brag about how he miraculously memorized an entire textbook in one night (like that’s possible.) The truth is that cramming doesn’t work for two reasons: 1. It usually means your sacrificing sleep, and that leads to poor performance, and 2. The stress leads to a less effective memory, so you don’t retain information as well.
A better alternative is to ‘pre-commit’ to a task before the deadline. Pre-committing is essentially setting an earlier deadline with consequences. Set an alarm for the time you need to complete the task. That will set a sense of urgency. And to up the consequences, set your deadline just before another commitment.
Example: It’s Friday and a report is due Monday.
Set a timer for Friday at 6pm, right before you need to leave to go to a friend’s party.
This will motivate you to complete the task based on a pre-committed deadline so that it doesn’t interfere with your other commitments.
Stop the dread
In the words of George Claude Lorimer, “Putting off an easy thing makes it hard. Putting off a hard thing makes it impossible”. It’s easy to get sucked into a miserable cycle of procrastination. We dread completing a task, so we put it off, then we get stressed out with that task hovering over us, so we put it off more. Then we’re stuck doing a task we hate in crunch time with added pressure and stress. Sounds terrible, doesn’t it?
So the solution is to do the hardest task first. Which sounds easier than it is. But the truth is that the sense of dread will grow the longer you put it off.
If you know you have a frustrating task coming up and you’re temped to procrastinate:
- Start your morning with something you enjoy before work so that your day starts off on a good note. Whether it’s a morning walk, listening to music or grabbing your favorite breakfast, give yourself a good morning.
- Be realistic about how long the ask will actually take (it’s probably not as long as you think) So let’s say it’s 30 minutes. Remind yourself that can survive for half hour.
- Complete the task (You can do it!)
- Reward yourself when it’s done. Tell yourself that you can take your first coffee break after this task, or you can go for a walk or go on Facebook for bit.
Procrastination is mostly a mind game, a battle with ourselves. So the solution is also in your mind and if you repeat these tricks a few times, you should start to form new, more productive habits that help you prevent procrastination.