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“Action cures fear. Indecision, postponement, on the other hand, fuel fear.” – David Joseph Schwartz (American writer)
Procrastination is a problem that can affect both our professional lives and private lives, and that is constantly progressing according to the conclusions of the Canadian psychologist Piers Steeln.
Between the temptations of Netflix, Instagram, and Youtube, it’s not surprising that many of us get distracted every day.
For some, procrastination is linked to the need for pleasure. We live in a society of instant gratification, which encourages us to postpone stressful activities and seek out tasks that provide us with short term pleasure.
For others, procrastinating can be due to fear of failure. You may be scared you won’t achieve your goal, so you put it off indefinitely to avoid the risk of failure. This can also work on the opposite end of the spectrum, with people using procrastination as a way to put themselves under pressure in order to create better work. This is called an Active Procrastinator, someone who uses the adrenaline of a tight deadline to work more efficiently.
With this being said, procrastination can often generate feelings of frustration or guilt. So, how can we learn to manage our procrastination and achieve our goals today?
The 30-minute solution
In this technique, you dedicate a set amount of time, generally thirty minutes, where you direct all your focus and energy on one activity. When time is up, you have a ten-minute break and start again.
Allocating certain times for a break can encourage you to work more efficiently. Often you’ll find after thirty minutes of giving your full attention to a piece of work, you’ll be so immersed in what you’re doing you won’t want to stop for a break! However, by scheduling these short breaks throughout your day, the task you need to complete won’t seem so daunting and you’ll feel more motivated to start in the first place.
This is a great way to motivate yourself. By associating finishing a task with a reward, you will feel more motivated and your mind will naturally work harder to complete a task.
Rewarding yourself after completing a task can also give you a great sense of fulfillment, leaving you feeling guilt-free for treating yourself as you feel you deserve it after working hard.
Set achievable goals
Sometimes we procrastinate because a task feels too big. When this happens, the task can seem daunting, and it’s difficult to know where to start, causing us to feel overwhelmed.
For example, learning a whole course can feel like a massive task. In turn, this will generate stress and discourage us before we’ve even started.
However, if we break the task into small sections, it automatically feels more achievable. The smaller the task feels, the easier it is to get started. So be sure to set small, realistic goals with a deadline to help boost your productivity.
Instead of saying, “I’m going to revise my entire resume tonight,” tell yourself, “I will do the Education section tonight, and the Professional experiences section tomorrow morning.”
Instead of saying, “I will review my entire microeconomics tonight,” tell yourself, “I will study five chapters tonight and then the next five tomorrow morning.”
I studied law, and there is a lot to learn in law.
The idea of reading and learning 1000 pages worth of information and terminology was my worst nightmare. However, to help manage the workload, I organized my schedule and set small goals to help me complete my work one step at a time. Doing this made the task seem less daunting and I found myself starting with ease.
It is much less intimidating to start a big task when it’s broken down into small, concise sections. So be sure to set achievable goals and remember that the smaller the task, the easier it is to get started.
Complete your hardest tasks when you’re most productive
Use your most productive times of the day to complete the most challenging tasks. The time when you’re most productive can vary from person to person; for example, I know I’m a morning person, so I use this to my advantage.
By the end of the day, I’ve completed my most difficult tasks and can dedicate my time to jobs that require less concentration.
Visualize the success
I love visualization, and I find this is one of the most effective techniques in getting myself motivated. If one day I wasn’t as productive as I would have liked, in bed that night, I make sure I visualize myself being efficient the next day.
I create a detailed picture of myself successfully completing my tasks. I envisioned my posture, my clothes, the steam from my cup of tea, and lastly, I see myself typing on my computer with determination and concentration. By visualizing yourself achieving your goals, you will be programming my mind for success.
So now we know how to help procrastination, but how can we stay consistent and motivated over a long period of time?
How do you remain consistent?
Focus on one thing at a time and implement change gradually
After a week of eating badly, we tell ourselves Monday is when we’ll start eating healthy again.
We think that as if by magic, come Monday we will instantly transform into the best version of ourselves. As nice as this may seem, sadly this isn’t the reality.
We’ll keep up our healthy lifestyle for ten days, feel super motivated, and then gradually slip back into our old routine, and the cycle will continue.
As humans, we are creatures of habits, and these habits can take a while to change.
I believe small steps are the key to success, and that it’s impossible to change every bad habit you have overnight. So try to focus on one thing you want to achieve and stick to it for a month, then move onto the next one.
By transforming your habits one by one, you’ll be able to build up a stable routine and stay consistent, ultimately helping you achieve your goals in the long run.
Be kind to yourself and focus on one thing at a time, understanding that change is an ongoing process and can’t be achieved overnight.
Be really clear about why you want to achieve your goal
When you start something, be very clear about why you are doing it and why is it important to you? By understanding the importance of achieving your goal, will motivate you to stay on track.
You don’t have to do anything fancy when writing out why you want to achieve your goal, it can be as simple as just getting it down on paper. I have never been good at math, but at school I was determined to score average. So to help me achieve this, I had hung my goal on my bedroom wall and outlined why I wanted to score average and what it meant to me.
And so with that motivation in mind, I studied math every night and I had the score I targeted.
So make sure you outline why you want to achieve your goal.
Track your progress
Every week I write four things I’ve achieved, what positive action I’ve taken and congratulate myself if I’ve managed to stay consistent all week. Doing this motivates me to work towards my goals the next week.
You can also hang a calendar on the wall, and draw a tick green on the days or weeks you have been consistent with your work, and black on the days or weeks you didn’t. Having a visual cue can be a great source of motivation because we can visually see when we’ve not achieved our goals and where we can improve.
Find a partner in crime!
The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) conducted a study on accountability, where they found participants were 65% more likely to achieve a goal or target if they shared it with another person. Not only this, but if you schedule a regular ‘accountability appointment’ with the person who you shared your goals with, you increase your chance of success by up to 95%.
So try sharing your goals with a close friend or family member who isn’t afraid to offend. By doing this, you will have someone to hold you accountable if you’re procrastinating and can help you stay motivated in the long run.
Don’t beat yourself up
It’s common to beat yourself up if you don’t achieve a certain goal or objective, myself included. It can cause us to devalue ourselves, and thus the infernal machine of negative self-talk begins!
But no one’s perfect, and failing is a part of the learning process. The most important part is not how often you succeed, but rather how you pick yourself back up after failing.
Let’s take an example:
You cook dinner for a friend, and when they eat it they keep telling you how bad it is, that it’s inedible and that you’re a terrible cook.
Would you want to cook for them again? Most definitely not! (And you probably wouldn’t be their friend again either.)
On the other hand, if you cook the meal and it’s not great, but your friend encourages you to try again and keep going, would you cook it a second time? Yes!
The same applies with how you talk to yourself through successes and failures. If you fail but believe that you can never do any better and will never achieve your goal, then your thoughts will become a reality.
But if you’re kind to yourself, and understand that no success comes without failure, you’ll be motivated to try again and be even better next time.
So don’t become your worst enemy, be kind, forgive, and encourage yourself.
If you’re here because you wanted to stop procrastinating and achieve your goals, I truly hope you have found this article helpful. I hope that the information provided helps you banish the ‘should-haves’ and shows you that if you stay consistent, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.
By questioning yourself and wanting to work on your bad habits, you’ve shown an amazing sense of self-awareness and courage.
It is so much easier to remain in your comfort zone, rather than to leave it, especially when you know that change requires patience and perseverance. So value your desire to achieve your goals and break your habits, and know that this is the first step towards change. As Denzel Washington once said, “without commitment you will never start, but without consistency, you will never finish.”