This is part two in my series on procrastinating. If you haven’t read part one, then you can click here to read it first.
If, like me you love procrastinating, the prospect of reading another article should be music to your ears!
Onwards to the next part of the series. In part one, I told you what procrastination was and how I struggle with it on a daily basis.
In this article, I will let you know how I’m getting on and how to beat procrastination.
It can be done.
Me, Myself and Procrastinating
All this to put off writing.
I am a walking procrastinating devil, with Dave the sloth (you remember him, right?) sitting on my shoulder. He likes to whisper in my ear.
“It doesn’t need to be done until Friday.”
“Facebook is much more interesting.”
“Just watch baby monkey riding a pig once more, it’s really funny man.”
Shut up Dave!!
So, we are aware that the need to procrastinate is an evolutionary hang-up. Before we were humans we had a part of the brain that was designed to keep us safe.
It was also there to make sure we didn’t get too stressed as we know that’s not always a good thing.
For each of us, this part of the brain reacts in different ways. I introduced Dave and if you missed him, here he is:
I also mentioned the Chimp Paradox. This theory suggests that the brain has a chimp that likes to over-react for the most part, to seek the easy way out and sometimes to smash thing up when it doesn’t get its own way.
I suggest that at times, our brain can give us both a sloth and a chimp and to varying degrees. They can be a hindrance or a help and we shouldn’t try to deny their presence within us.
That will only make them angry.
I also touched upon my own feelings of guilt every time I am looking at Twitter instead of doing important work.
James Clear has described this feeling of guilt leading up to a deadline as the:
This sums up clearly the guilt that we experience as we procrastinate. It rises sharply until we actually get off our butts and start the work (action). The pain then rapidly drops as we get on with it.
By the time we have finished (on time) we are left to wonder why we didn’t just knuckle down in the first place? As the pain we suffered leading up to taking action was much worse than actually doing the work.
But even though I know this to be true, why do I still spend time on social media when I should be working?
Positive and Negative Reinforcement
This is how our brain learns at the most basic level. By using both positive and negative stimuli our brains can learn a certain behaviour which then affects our behaviour.
So, for example, let’s use social media.
We post a picture of ourselves looking particularly dapper.
It receives lots of lovely comments from our friends.
We feel good about ourselves.
Trigger – Action – Reward
The brain is extremely clever, so when we are feeling sad or stressed (deadline looming) it makes us seek out the good feeling again. We feel drawn to social media because it is designed to give us these good feelings.
It’s designed to keep us coming back and spending time there.
A procrastination playground!
Simple Rules to Stop You Procrastinating
Even though I myself struggle with procrastination these tips I’m about to share with you are the best ways I have found to try and beat the procrastination devil.
Turn off your social media
I’m tackling the ugly monster head on. You will not get anything done is you are continually checking Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Pinterest.
Your emails will still be there after you have done your work.
You know I’m right.
Whilst working you should close down your social media tabs on your browser.
Put your phone in another room or even turn it off so you aren’t tempted to sneak a look. You can look at it but not right now.
You have work to do.
Break your time into manageable chunks
I believe the reason why I procrastinate so much is that I don’t do this as often as I should. Looking down the barrel of a 4-hour period when I should be working does two things to me.
- It fills me with dread – 4 hours is a lot of time to fill
- It allows Dave a way into my head – “4 hours is a long time, you have so much time. Chill out.”
Plan your day into little chunks of time. Some people like 15-minute blocks others find an hour works best.
Whichever time limit suits you, try it.
Set a timer and make sure that you are free from distraction for that period and put your whole focus into it.
After the alarm goes off, take a short break and reward yourself. Check your social media, make yourself a cup of tea or brush the dog’s ears.
This will ingrain good time management habits into your brain which will last for the long-term.
Trigger – Action – Reward.
Have an immediate consequence for procrastinating
Take me for example.
When I have a long deadline for something to get done the prospect of getting into trouble six weeks down the line doesn’t really feel like a big motivator.
But what if I were to suffer the consequences in 6 hours’ time? I think that would probably make me sit up, set a timer and tell Dave to keep quiet until I had finished.
You have to find your own immediate consequence.
It could be booking onto to a gym class with a friend, this evening. Which, if you were to miss through procrastination would make you look like someone who doesn’t care.
The fear of letting your buddy down is your motivator.
Have a to-do list
This is my favourite tip. I use this everyday and allows me to be much more focussed.
It is my “secret sauce” of tips.
Sit up and take notes.
For years, it was thought that multi-tasking was the best way to be productive.
We have all been there, with a million and one things to do in a day. We try our hardest to do them all but somehow finish the day without finishing a single one.
Well, it has been proven that to multi-task actually decreases our productivity.
We cannot concentrate on more than one thing at one time. So, when switching from task to task the brain takes a split second to think about it. This split second over the day builds up, in the end costing us time we don’t have.
Instead you should:
- Choose and list no more than 6 things you need to do that day
- Prioritise them in order of the most important at the top
- Complete each task in turn
- Tick them off your list as you go along
I guarantee that you will procrastinate less, be more productive and feel so much better at the end of the day.
Nothing beats the feeling of ticking off the last task on the sheet and giving a fist pump into the air.
There you have it.
My 4 tips to help you stop procrastinating.
Through the previous part which you can view here and this, it is my hope that the world will procrastinate less.
The feelings of guilt that result from my procrastinating bring my mood down and I don’t want other to suffer the same.
It is my mission to leave the world a happier place than when I found it.
Be all you can be
If you have any tips of your own about how you beat procrastination then please comment below, I would love to hear from you.