Raise your hand if you’re a victim of procrastination. (If you’re reading this, we’ll assume your hand is up). The main problem with procrastination? It’s easy to get away with. We buy ourselves extra leisure time and then condense the stress of fulfilling the deadline into one intense marathon of work. So, in theory, we spend less energy on what we don’t want to be doing. But do we really?
Procrastinating is an active pursuit. If you’re having to think about putting something off, that’s energy you’re expending on a cyclical and taxing decision-making process. Procrastination, by its very nature, is the repeated deferring of a task. Deciding you’ll finish your report at five o’ clock is scheduling. Deciding you’ll do it at eleven, and then at two, and then, finally, at five is procrastination.
So why would you want to stop procrastinating? To save yourself the mental effort. As long as you’re putting off a task, it’s draining your attention and your energy. So here are some of the reasons you procrastinate, and what you can do to overcome them.
1. You’ve dramatized the situation.
Often times, the thing we’re putting off isn’t as tiresome as we think. Mostly, the things we don’t want to do are the things that bore us. And once we identify for ourselves that the task at hand is merely tedious (as opposed to actually difficult), it can become easier to wrap our heads around a “just get it done” mentality. Consider setting a timer: “I’ll devote twenty minutes of concentrated effort to this and move on with my day.” Doing this allows you to be more focused, and also sets the challenge of racing against the clock, which can make a humdrum task more stimulating!
2. Not knowing where to start.
Maybe you’re not putting off one unsavoury task. Maybe you have a to-do list as long as your arm and you have no idea where to start. In which case, the right answer is: anywhere. Flip a coin, draw lots, close your eyes and see where your finger lands. The key is to start because it’ll make you feel less stuck. If choosing at random doesn’t work for you, then start with the easiest tasks and work your way up to the most difficult. This way you bolster your productivity and motivation with the gratification of completing a series of tasks, which often makes us eager to complete more.
3. Lack of motivation.
If you’re feeling lethargic, this is most likely a result of personal habits. On the physical plane, maybe you’re not getting enough sleep, working too intensely, or eating poorly. These and many other things can make us feel sluggish and unmotivated. Mentally, maybe you’re prone to negative self-talk and pessimism. Give yourself permission to spend time on your mental health, because procrastination could be the result of a larger issue that prevents you from being as efficient as you’d like.
4. You’ve lost sight of the long game.
You’ve deferred completing a task in favour of doing something more fun or rewarding. The problem is that the thing you feel like you should be doing is still at the back of your mind, sapping your enjoyment of the thing you’d rather be doing. So when the temptation to procrastinate creeps up on you, think of the long game; if you finish your “shoulds” then you get to have more fun with your “wants.” Bearing this in mind is the equivalent of rewarding yourself for a job well done!