Procrastination is the gooey, sticky swamp that we must trudge through to get to success. There are few people who actually enjoy procrastination, but nearly everyone falls victim to it at least once in a while. Here are some strategies for coping.
Procrastination stands between us and our accomplishments. It saps our energy and distracts us in every way possible so that we don't get around to doing the things that are most important. Sometimes we don't realize we're procrastinating, and then suddenly realize that our deadline is upon us and we are horribly unprepared.
If you find yourself filling the hours with trivial, low-value activities rather than take on your major task of the day, you are procrastinating. If you think of several really good reasons why you aren't going to be successful with that major project that you need to start, you are procrastinating. If you keep adding new items to your To Do list so that one assignment can be ignored, you are procrastinating. It happens to everyone, but there are some simple tactics that can help you get over the procrastination hump and onto completing that task.
First, you need to recognize that you are procrastinating. We've listed some symptoms and there are some more obvious signs, but you need to be honest to yourself and admit that you're putting off that task with any excuse in the book.
Once you've decided to quick procrastinating, try to picture the nice glow that you will feel when you complete this project. Visualizing a positive outcome can help to counter any negative thoughts you have built up during the procrastinating process. You need to look forward to the results of your efforts so that you can get off to a good start. Decide how you will celebrate completing this project. It doesn't have to be champagne or balloon rides, just a victory lap around your chair may be enough, but visualize the completion and your associated joy to get your juices flowing.
Start by allocating ten minutes to the task. Yes, just ten minutes. Maybe start a timer if that helps. What can ten minutes hurt? Don't spend the ten minutes on fancy formatting or arranging the pencils on your desk. Really jump into the project and get a bit of it underway. When the ten minutes are up, you will be happily surprised by (A) how much you actually got done, and (B) how little it hurt.
Now let yourself really dive in. Do not multitask! Yes, in today's world it is very easy to write a paper, text message a friend, send out that great tweet on your world view and make sure that you email discussion with the Nigerian prince is up to date. Avoid this at all costs. A project that triggers your procrastination reflex deserves your full attention. Besides that, if you fully concentrate on the task at hand, you will be done much more quickly and can get back to all these more enjoyable (and productive?) activities.
If this is a large task, break it down into manageable chunks. Just as shopping malls and bedroom communities are designed to hide their real (massive) size, breaking your project down into bite-sized chunks lets you enjoy success early and carry this motivation through to the end.
Once you've accomplished a significant milestone (no cheating, now) take a break and reward yourself with an enjoyable task for ten minutes. Set that timer again, this is the end, just a milestone we're talking about. After the ten minute refresher, jump back into your project renewed and enthusiastic.
Before long, you will have completed your project. It turns out to be easier and less distasteful than the procrastinating, right? Celebrate your success and put a little bit of this joy away as fuel to power you through your next procrastination-worthy project.
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