Do you know this? You think about a task you actually don’t like to do. You shift your focus of attention to something more enjoyable. Temporarily this causes you to feel better but unfortunately the long term effects of this habitual avoidance can be very painful: work piles up, your brain gets stressed and you fall into last minute work. In this article I want to give you some actionable tips and tools on how to fight procrastination and how you can master your daily habits!
I’m just like you: Sometimes I feel like crap in the office because I postpone an uncomfortable task to a later time. I’m just not on fire that day so I start doing something more pleasurable in order to avoid the other more important task. This is a typical example of procrastination and I know most of you experience something very similar too, either in the office, in school or in some other private projects.
Procrastinators are like drug addicts
The reason for that behavior is that when you think about something you don’t particularly like, the pain centers of your brain light up. That’s why you funnel your attention onto a more enjoyable task which makes you feel better. Here you see that procrastination shares features to a drug addiction: You offer yourself a temporary excitement, trying to escape from a boring or uncomfortable situation. Then you start to convince yourself with stories like “the more enjoyable task won’t take so much time”, “it will solve even a bigger problem” or “I will start the more important task after this”.
Tackling Procrastination is easier than you think
Strategies for dealing with procrastination are actually quite simple but they aren’t intuitively obvious. That’s why I collected some helpful and actionable techniques that can help you to control procrastination. I started to apply the following 5 incredible easy actions in my daily life as a Coach which helped me to get rid of procrastination:
- Use a planner journal – When I am stressed out I usually procrastinate. The reason for that is that I think that so many details are undefined and priorities are not clear. Another reason for the stress is that often I haven’t enough information in order to start a new task and I am too lazy to search for it. The Bullet Journal helps me to organize all of this: I increased my productivity with this analog system! The Bullet Journal is a customizable organization system. It can be your daily to-do list, sketchbook and notebook. Furthermore you can easily track when you reach a goal.
- Commit yourself to certain routines and tasks each day – Write down your tasks and plans the night before so your brain starts to prepare and focus on your goals. Start writing down small achievable challenges for the next day. Then you connect each of them to a small personal reward that you give to yourself once you achieved a goal.
- Watch for procrastination cues – It is very helpful if you put yourself in new surroundings where there is a lower chance of procrastination cues, such as a library or a learning / working space in the nature. Change location regularly! If this is not so easy for you, try to change some variables in your usual environment.
- Do the hard job first – Force yourself to put the hardest job on the highest priority on your planner. This is probably the task you intuitively would like to postpone. The earlier you start with it, the higher the chance that you will achieve all the other tasks on your list.
- Sleep and Exercise – Yes, yet another blog where you read that exercising and sleeping is important for your life. It is interesting how sports and sleep impact your brain and also motivation. I’m not saying you have to run every day 10km, but a chilled noon walk or some pushups in the morning can help you to push yourself. Don’t forget resting! Sleeping or a calmed walk will help you to gain distance to your daily business. A lot of neural magic happens in your brain and you will see how it positively impacts your daily behavior.
I became aware of procrastination when I participated on a course on Coursera: Learning How To Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects. There was an entire chapter where the tutors explain how to avoid procrastination. So I investigated more and started to apply many techniques. The above mentioned tips were the methods that helped me most. Since then I really try to follow that list every single day.
Inside the mind of a master procrastinator
Here is a TED Video from Tim Urban. In this hilarious and insightful talk, Urban encourages us to think harder about what we’re really procrastinating on.
I hope my top 5 list is helpful for you. No ones perfect after all, so be prepared that in the beginning you might fail once or twice. It’s important to stay strong in order to master your daily habits!
I’m interested in your favorite techniques. Which method would you recommend the community? Do you have questions on my list? Please add your comments below!
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