How To (Finally) Stop Procrastinating

Isn’t it ironic; it took me two hours to write down this how-to guide for you, because I was torn between writing and watching another episode of Parks and Rec, while making playlists on my Spotify.

It doesn’t matter how productive you are; at least once in your life you were facing a huge task and you simply shook your head and walked away from it. And this is when it gets scary. The task starts as a snowflake and it slowly turns into this huge avalanche of anxiety and stress.

You’re screwed. You wasted too much time checking improbable facts on Wikipedia, just to avoid getting things done; and now you feel overwhelmed and you have no time left to actually get things done.

It is pretty impressive the amount of things we can get done while we avoid to do things that we are meant to be doing.

Once I watched a 3-hour documentary on a sushi-master and told myself that it was for research purposes, or spent an hour crafting the perfect playlist to get motivated and then I was too mentally drained to actually get the work done.

I mean, you get it. Procrastination is a pain in the butt. And it affects every single one of us; whether we are students, 9-5 people and parents; as humans, we just slack.

But this is not a place to cuddle your emotions and I am not here to stroke your hair and tell you that it’s going to be fine if you skip doing your assignment again, because I am here to #CHALLENGEYOASS, right?

So let’s get things done now. It’s the first day of Spring in the Southern hemisphere, a time of change, vitality and fresh starts. You have procrastinated long enough, now let’s put those buns into action.


Why do we do this to ourselves?

It’s been four hours and we still haven’t started writing our essay, because watching tutorials on YouTube is way more entertaining; so we drop our heads on the keyboard and we raise our white flag. Another wasted day. Why do this to ourselves?

We blame ourselves for being careless, stupid and just weak for not getting things done; but science reveals another side of the beast of procrastination.

And it’s a very emotional side. In fact, when we procrastinate, we don’t do it because we don’t care, or we simply lack the gene  of motivation; we are just really stressed, or worried and putting off a task is simply a way to deal with it.

Putting off an important task and forgetting about the negative consequences is a way to avoid the actual emotions that are associated with the task; and we deal with those emotions, by seeking short-term pleasures from..pretty much anything. When we are watching random YouTube videos, or playing video games instead of getting something done, we are just trying to deal with all those nasty emotions underneath in a safe and temporary way.

Dr. Pychyl – a psychology professor at Carleton University who has been publishing many researches on the emotional connection with productivity has spoken the golden words.

The essence of procrastination is “we’re giving in to feel good,” “Procrastination is, ‘I know I should be doing it, I want to, it gets under my skin [when I don’t].’ ”

So we are definitely not stupid; hope that makes you feel better. And in a really interesting article by the Wall Street Journal that you should definitely read (IN YOUR FREE TIME, NOT WHILE YOU ARE PROCRASTINATING), researches have found that even when we do seemingly productive things, we still might be avoiding the actual task.

Like, how many of you have gone to the gym, or cleaned the house, just to avoid the feeling of stress and anxiety that comes with having to face a huge task?

Doing something productive when you are meant to be working on a more important task is a way to make feel yourself better about being unproductive, and also a way to avoid the same nasty stuff that is polluting your mind. 

So going for a run while you’re meant to be studying might increase your focus, but you are still putting off something that you should be doing.

And many people resonate with this; some of us consider themselves perfectionists, we simply cannot start things unless we are 100% certain that they will turn out exactly how we want them and how they should be. Yeah, that definitely sounds like it came out of the mouth of the dude from American Psycho, but it’s true.

Some people believe that their procrastination is actually due to their desire to have things perfectly done. We wait for the right time, or the right pen to actually write down our thesis, or the right template to do the assignment, until we have wasted half the day and we are just stuck with a perfect pen and tons of work to do.

Research has debunked the whole perfectionism theory, so we can jump off the high horse and realize that, our procrastination is not due to wanting things perfect and how we want them, but it’s a matter of being impulsive. 

When we give in to wasting time and distractions, we just act on our impulses. It makes sense right?

So now that we know why we do what we do when we waste time, how the hell can we finally challenge the ass of this procrastination?


HOW TO STOP PROCRASTINATING

  • Be aware of your emotions. Like we have mentioned before, your procrastination is just a way for your mind to safely deal with anxiety and stress that comes with tackling certain tasks. Before you turn into doing other things, try to take a step back, close your eyes and ask yourself. Why do I want to check on my Facebook, when I should be doing other things? And why am I so scared of doing this task?. Digging deeper into your emotions and having a personal conversation with yourself might sound unnecessary, because we are all under the impression that we know ourselves extremely well; when in reality, if our emotions are tangled into a mess, it is often hard to find clarity and motivation to carry on with our every-day lives. So untangle the mess and ask yourself questions. It’s the first step to unlock the emotional side of your procrastination.
  • Stop following your impulses. Yeah, of course it would be better watching a funny cat video on YouTube, or play Tetris on your phone, instead of working on a project. Absolutely anything would be better than getting things done, when you are scared of getting something done. But again, be aware of your impulses. Be aware of how fast your hand reaches for your phone when you feel uncomfortable, or demotivated. Once that you have scrolled down through your whole ensemble of social media, I can assure you that you will only be left with one thing: disappointment. Because you will be exposed to a huge amount of informations, images and parts of people’s lives that will make you think that THEY are being productive and successful and all sorts of things, while.. well, you are just scrolling through their lives when you are meant to be doing something that will add value to yours. So if you challenge the way you look at your impulses and actually try to ignore them, you will feel more confident about tackling the task and stop falling into this cycle of wasting time.
  • Break down the task into smaller parts. A lot of the time we procrastinate, because we have absolutely no idea what we actually have to get done. We know we have to finish an assignment, or start on the book that we have been meaning to write, but when we actually sit down and do it, we are overwhelmed with confusion and stress of not really know where to begin. That’s why you need to break your goal up. When you set yourself a goal, don’t just think “write assignment”, or “go for a run”, be specific. For tasks that can be broken down, write down the night before a list of steps that are needed to complete it. Per example, if you have to write an essay, you could write down a list that says: identify the main topics, research on topic 1, 2, 3, summarize the concepts, write introduction, write paragraphs, write conclusion, check and edit. if you want to make sure even more that you will be doing it, you can even schedule the small tasks, so that you can have an actual schedule to follow and be accountable for. Smaller tasks will make you feel more comfortable about the big project and will also give you a clear idea on what needs to be done.
  • Adopt a long-term perspective. Because procrastination is focusing on immediate avoidance of being uncomfortable and stressed, without fully realizing the negative consequences of such behaviour; it is pretty obvious that you need to develop a good old muscle that we often forget to use. Perspective. When you are about to put something off, think about the future. Focus on the negative consequences of not getting this task done and how negatively is going to impact your mental health in the future.
  • Set your intentions. Every night before you go to bed, write down your intentions for the next day and what you need to do to get them accomplished. In this way, all you need to do in the morning is to open your diary, or note on your phone and be like “Yep, thank you, Past Me, I know what to do”. And if your procrastination is really bad, you could check on your intentions at the end of the day and report what has been done and what now, and write down WHY you didn’t do them. This helps you tracking the behaviour behind your procrastination, so you gotta know the enemy before you put them down.
  • Don’t over do it. It is pretty normal for a serial procrastinator to respond to an excessive amount of productivity, after a serious amount of slacking. But like any other thing, don’t over do it, because you will crash and burn. Especially if you find it hard to be productive, start small. When you set your intentions for the next day, write down three main things that you should tackle. If you can’t find three things, find one that has two big sub-parts, they can be your three things. But I am sure that you will find three things that you have been slacking off, so challenge yourself into finding them. Smaller steps will build the focus and discipline that you need to increase your productivity.
  • Block any distractions. You will find 100 and more excuses to keep using apps and social media accounts when you are meant to be doing stuff, so I am here to tell you: if you want to get things done, you have got to stop playing dumb. You know that you shouldn’t check your phone every two minutes, or upload stuff on Instagram, or make funny videos on Snapchat. Just because you can access to fun stuff at any time, it doesn’t mean that you have to use them. Control your impulses and stop checking your stuff. If you really can’t help yourself, there are tons of options. Put your phone on silent and place it across the room; you will be surprised how lazy you can be. Block all websites you waste time on (Use StayFocused ) and delete your history and cached data, so that you have to log back into everything; you will be surprised at how easy it is to forget your passwords. Sit at a not too comfortable, not too umcomfortable spot. It will keep you alert and motivated to keep doing stuff. Tell your friends to fuck off. Ah, just tell them that you need to be productive, if they are your true friends they will understand.
  • When you’re getting distracted, ATTACK! When you feel like your mind is drifting and you are definitely going for the fridge, it is time to take a deep breath, close your eyes and it will feel like a mental shower. Get up and shake your limbs like a white girl at a hip-hop party, stretch your legs, maybe sing, or grab a glass of water, or a snack. Then go back to it. Don’t give into the temptation of saying “I have done enough”. Only stop when you actually have done enough, and usually when you think you have, you have only just started, so keep that in mind.
  • Listen to some music, or light up a candle. It is obvious that we are procrastinating on something, because we don’t want to do it, so we have to at least make it pleasurable right? So put on some music that keeps you motivated and focused, or light some incense, or put on some clothes that make you feel good about yourself. This will only improve your mood, which will inevitably make you feel more comfortable with doing the task itself. Just don’t waste two hours looking for the right song, or the right smell. That is still procrastinating.
  • Have a dream board. Having a visual display of your goals and where you want to be can snap you out of your fear of getting something done. Write down motivational quotes, or pictures that remind you that we can all achieve anything we want, if we actually put down the work and the commitment that we need to get done.

OTHER LINKS THAT YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT

Procrastination is a mindfulness problem – ZenHabits and any other of his articles

This Reddit Masterpost on Motivation – Reddit

This Productivity Guide

List of motivational videos

What Really Happens When We Procrastinate – WSJ

Productivity by Tim Ferris

Music mixes to keep you focused

This post on Reddit

This amazing comic art.

So now you got all the tools that you needed.

Like Shia, would say.

JUST DO IT.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s