Today we’ll talk about one of my favourite topics ever: procrastination.
Maybe it’s because I struggled with it for so long I can’t even remember when it all started, or because I realized that even once you think you “got it” and you’re being the most productive version of yourself you’ve ever been, you’ll eventually fall off and need to improve – but procrastination has always had a fascinating nature for me.
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First of all, if you want to beat procrastination, you need to finally see it for what it is: resistance.
And resistance is something that Steven Pressfield talks about in the book “War of Art” (quick secret: I read it twice!) and it basically means “the thing that keeps you from doing your work”.
Most of the time is something that kind of happens subconsciously, irrationally. You really want to get that essay checked off of your to-do list, but for some reason, you avoid doing it – most of the time by doing other stuff that comes automatically in your mind when you think of something “comfortable”.
For instance, you might start checking your Instagram, watching a video on Youtube or eating something out of your fridge (this was one of the most common ones for me!).
Pressfield explains that basically that work/thing you need to get done becomes so important to you that you’re almost afraid to do it – or, in some cases, afraid of failing at doing it.
And we all also know that old story: the longer you procrastinate, the harder it will become to take on and actually do that thing later on. That’s because somehow you’re proving to yourself that you have valid reasons to resist accomplishing that task:
“I should have written that essay yesterday, but I watched an entire season of Breaking Bad on Netflix, I feel so bad about myself. Maybe I’m not really able to accomplish that”
And then you feel a failure and rely on some more comfort (again, generally it’s food or Netflix or mindlessly scrolling through social media).
It becomes an endless circle, really.
Luckily, there are a few practical things you can do to fight this resistance and actually get to do your work in the end.
And we all also know that old story: the longer you procrastinate, the harder it will become to take on and actually do that thing later on. That’s because somehow you’re proving to yourself that you have valid reason.
Okay, before you decide to get right through the screen you’re reading this post from just to scream “Duh!” in my face, hear me out.
I know it’s incredibly difficult to take action and just start doing a task when you’re procrastinating on it because, I mean, that’s basically the definition of “procrastination” in the first place!
But what I mean by saying this is that you can set a timer (a minimum of 15/20 minutes) and tell yourself “I’m gonna spend the next 15 minutes working on this, and then that’s it, I’ll watch an episode on Netflix”.
Most of the time when the timer rings you’ll be so focused – because you’ll have already overcome the resistance barrier – that you’ll be willing to go on with the work anyway.
Once you’ve gotten pretty good at it, you’ll be able to set the timer for longer periods of work – but I suggest you never have more than 2 hours straight of focus.
After that, enjoy your well-earned break!
CHUNK IT DOWN
This technique is particularly recommended for large, long tasks, like a big project that is likely to take you a few days or even a few months to get done (e.g. starting a blog, writing a book etc.) but is also still equally effective for shorter tasks like writing an essay.
Basically, what you have to do is chunking this energy-draining project that feels like running a marathon into small chunks, small actions that will eventually “get the ball rolling”.
In other words, you should ask yourself:
“What is the smallest, easiest next step that I can make toward this goal?”
If it’s necessary, make it so easy, so simple that it will basically feel stupid avoiding it. It could be something like “opening the book” or “picking up a pen” etc.
Then once you’ve done it, continue asking yourself the same question until you start actively working on the project.
You’ll find that once you’ve taken a baby step, you can take the next baby step, and the next one and the next one. In doing this, you’ll build momentum and you’re gonna find yourself in flow.
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IDENTIFY PROCRASTINATION AT ITS CORE
As we already said, procrastination is a form of resistance to getting some work done that’s important to us and difficult. I mean, you wouldn’t procrastinate on washing your teeth, would you?
Well, if the reason you’re procrastinating is that you’re scared of failing at something, here is a quick exercise you can do to get past your initial fears and go on with your work – and life!
Basically, it’s an exercise Tim Ferriss is particularly known for: fear setting. You can easily guess what it is about from its name but below there’s the TED Talk in which he explains how to do it in details.
I suggest you give it a try, you might get pleasantly surprised by the result!
USE MUSIC TO SET THE MOOD
Another thing you can do to get some working flow is playing the right music when you need to work on something. Basically, there are some types of music that are particularly suggested to help you focus.
There’s classical music, for instance, but you can also find all the soundtrack you might need by typing in “focus music” or “music to study” on Spotify or Google.
It will set the mood for your working session and will even help you make the time go faster (in case you set a timer as we said before!)
A couple more things you can do to set the mood for work are lighting some scented candles or cleaning up your desk – so that you have a clear pleasant working space.
Ask yourself: “What is my ideal space to work?” and try to create a place where you have everything in order to get stuff done.
But don’t get too caught up with that either or it might end up being a way of procrastinating too!
JOURNAL OR MEDITATE
I know it might sound weird to read this type of advice in a post whose goal is to help you stop procrastinating, but once again, hear me out.
Sometimes we can’t focus on our work because our mind is so distracted and we’re thinking about a million things at once. So sometimes it has helped me to sit down and journal for two or three pages before I get to work.
In my most stressing periods, actually, I set “journaling” as part of my everyday morning routine so that I can just vomit all my thoughts every time before I get to work. As a result, I find myself focusing more easily and working with a fresh mind.
Meditation also has a similar effect. It helps you clear your mind, so that you can calm yourself and even set your intentions to focus on whatever you want to focus on.
Whichever you choose between the two, I think both are really great methods to prime yourself to start being productive and get work done.
Those were a few practical things I really hope can help you beat procrastination each time you need it to get to work ASAP.
However, you should keep in mind that you’ll probably still need to fight against this sort of resistance for the rest of your life. Good news is you’ll get better with time!
And once you realise how much you’ve accomplished in your life instead of eating and watching Netflix all day, every effort you made will “feel” worth it.
Do you know any more tips of your own on how to get to work that I missed into this post? And what is your personal experience in coping with procrastination? Let me know in the comments section below!