We are all prone to procrastination. Do I know it! Whether it’s sorting out bills, writing on the blog, making those general admin calls I have to make. I will do everything in my power to put these things off.
You’re probably reading this now as you can relate. Don’t worry you aren’t alone. That’s why there is actually a word for putting things off. Here is a more detailed description on procrastination to solidify it:
Procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task which needs to be accomplished. It is the practice of doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, or carrying out less urgent tasks instead of more urgent ones, thus putting off impending tasks to a later time (Wikipedia).
That just says it all doesn’t it really! Why would we want to do things that are boring when there are so many other more fun things to do?
I get it. Trust me.
To be honest with you though, I am also going to blame by lack of motivation for certain tasks on my anxiety. This isn’t an excuse either. Sometimes I’m lazy. But other times I lack the physical energy to do such tasks. Sometimes the fear of picking up the phone to make that important call I need to is too much. It’s mentally exhausting thinking about such tasks and I’m fed up of it.
You might be wondering where I’m going with this. Well, I am going to tell you that, even though you have anxiety or something similar, we can beat procrastination. It’s a difficult process but I’m hoping to make it simple for you.
I’m also going to give you some homework to do at the bottom.
Yes I know you’re not at school. but sometimes we all need a little helping hand and I promise you it will get easier. This might be the little push you need! I’m not your mum either so don’t worry if you don’t want to. I won’t know after all! But you will. That’s probably the more important part.
Okay. I’ve done lots of talking about the subject now. Lets get started.
Have a read of these examples and see if this reminds you of anyone:
You have an important assignment to do. You have to hand it in in 1 week. You sit down in front of your laptop ready to get started. You wonder what’s been going on in the world of Facebook and Youtube. You spend a bit of time browsing through and think you’ll do it soon. Before you know it it’s two hours later and nothing’s been written. You panic because you know you need to do it. You put it off until tomorrow. You don’t get back around to do it until the day it has to be handed in.
Or how about:
You need to call your energy company because you want to sort out your account. You know it needs to be done soon otherwise you won’t be able to make the payments. You put it off by distracting yourself with that book you’ve been wanting to pick up. This happens day after day. You put off your phone call until the date you were meant to pay has passed. This was due to a mild panic forming in your belly. Things become much harder now because the call has become even more scary.
Both examples are perfect examples of procrastination. In both cases the task in hand was quite important. But look how easy it is to ignore it. Does it remind you of you?
This is where this post comes in. I want to help you sort out these issues with some small steps to help make things easier. It’s going to show you that putting things off isn’t the best (but a totally human thing to do), and how to overcome it.
Lets make 2016 the year when you stop procrastinating.
How do you do it?
Break your thing into small chunks
Everything seems much less scarier when you break it down into smaller pieces. I have to do this otherwise my brain metaphorically explodes. Now I know if you suffer from anxiety or another mental illness this can be so difficult and can sometimes make you ill through worry. But there are a few tactics you can use against your brain if you struggle.
If it helps, write it down. Writing can help cement the things you need to do and is great for the visual types. I find diagrams help me even better than lists. It gives you a visual to look at and once broken down is much easier to look at. Something a little like this:
This is especially useful for those suffering from anxiety. Panic is just around the corner when it comes to putting things off. I know this from personal experience. Write and doodle to your heart’s content (within reason haha). It will only make things easier for you in the long run.
The next thing is to set yourself some simple goals.
Again and again I find myself going on about goals. But we are humans and humans need goals. This will help you when it comes to procrastinating. I’m not talking big goals either. Think of them as mini goals.
For example, if you found that phone call too difficult to do today, write it down in your diary for tomorrow. Write the goal you want to accomplish from it. How are you going to do it? Do you have time to email the company instead to make it easier? Maybe you could have a family member or friend with you for support.
When you start to process the task in hand like this, you are considering all options in a rational way. You’ll feel calmer for doing it, especially if you rope in a friend for support.
Your goals are YOUR goals. You make them as ambitious as you want but make sure they are realistic. Otherwise you won’t succeed.
Split up your time effectively to deal with your task.
If you have a university assignment to do, or have a project you need to submit to your boss, sort out your timings.
This might be the answer to killing that urge to procrastinate. We are all prone to distractions and taking the easier way out. So how about splitting your time into manageable chunks rather than sitting there for hours?
I know this as my first experience proper experience of anxiety came about whilst I was at uni. I would sit for hours trying to write an essay knowing it had to be in next week. I had a large amount of words to write but would just freeze there. I’d smoke loads of cigarettes (I don’t smoke any more) and put it off. It would be midnight and I’d still not done anything. It made me freeze.
Here is an example:
You could use the above if it helps. Make sure you have plenty of breaks so you don’t get distracted. Keep the chucks of time to an hour or less as we all know we lose concentration.
Had I managed the time better, maybe splitting it up into chunks, I might have done better at my degree. But this is where you can make the change. By doing it now, you won’t regret it later.
Reward yourself when you get things done.
By giving yourself a treat when you get those little goals done you are telling yourself you’ve done something good. This is because you have! Buy that nail varnish you’ve been wanting. Or watch that movie you’ve been waiting to watch but have been putting it off. It’s the little things that count.
This ties in with positive reinforcement. I wrote a post about it here. You may think positive reinforcement is for children but you need to reward yourself too. Think positively. If this is something you struggle with, how about dealing with your inner confidence at the same time? Have a read of my post here on that.
This is another tactic to trick your brain into doing something you don’t want to.
Finally, try not to overthink it. Just do it.
For anxiety sufferers, this is the worst part about it. The thought of something becomes larger and larger until it’s physically sickening. Planning and organising is great for sufferers of anxiety but sometimes just doing it can help.
Clear you head of the worries you may have and start. The more you practise this, the better. Lets say you’ve got your goals and plans all sorted. Tackle it now and not later. We both know it won’t happen! And remember – having anxiety does actually make you awesome!
I hope this has helped.
Now time for your homework!
This is only really relevant if you have things to get done.
All I want you to try is writing a little plan on your task in hand. Draw a diagram if it helps. Even a list will do. Use my examples above if this helps.
Then, plan out your time like in the example above. Write down your feelings whilst you are doing it. You don’t need to do this right now, but make sure you give it a go if this is new to you. It can be single words at a time if it’s not something you would normally do.
When you’ve finished it, think about the positives of the process. Then think about the negatives. It’s always a good idea to reflect. It allows you to look at what went well, and what went not so well. Write down what you’ve discovered.
Hopefully that helps. I’d love to hear about how you stop procrastinating, too!