Learning how to not procrastinate is easier said than done. For many, procrastination can get in the way of achieving one’s goals. For some, it can become addictive.
While this can be discouraging, there’s a lot we have to learn about the art of procrastination.
Recent studies show that procrastination isn’t necessarily a bad thing unless it becomes addictive or takes priority over your life and work goals.
Below are 5 ways to re-think how to stop procrastination and help you move forward in life by Lisa Nichols.
Change the Way You Think About Procrastination
Procrastination is typically seen as a bad habit that needs to be stopped. Notice how people want to learn how not to procrastinate, or how to stop procrastinating? We tend to use negative qualifiers like “no” and “stop” like we’re cutting out a cigarette addiction.
Recent studies show that how we think about procrastination affects our personal success as much as the habit itself. In other words, procrastination isn’t always due to laziness or an addiction to short-term rewards.
If you feel that you are procrastinating too much on ongoing projects, or that you struggle to focus more than your fellow co-workers, you don’t have to stop daydreaming to be productive. You don’t need to force yourself to engage constantly, either.
Great leaders get overwhelmed or distracted from time to time, too. They just listen to their bodies and learn to pace themselves, like a runner would. Your focus generally has to last throughout your work day and have some left over for tasks at home, so you don’t have to be fully attentive the entire time.
Acknowledging your best pace is essential to seeing procrastination for what it is: a natural part of you.
Learn What Causes You to Procrastinate and How To Not Do It
You may be surprised to find that daydreaming and focus can work together to improve your work ethic! It depends on the root of your focus follies. The Guardian has a great quiz to take and see the extent of your stalling.
Consider your emotions
It’s important to consider emotional triggers. Are you stalling because it makes you happier in the moment? Are you tuning out because you fear success or commitment in that area? If so, this is no coincidence.
The thoughts that cross your mind while assessing your daily to-do’s are a great indicator of emotional vs. rational thinking. They also show why you want to procrastinate:
“This doesn’t have to be done now, so I’ll get to it later.”
The first statement could be true, depending on several factors. Ask yourself: will there be consequences for putting this task off? Do you have a pending task that is more important? How does completing this task affect my short-term and long-term goals?
It’s best to start each day by making a list of to-do’s and sorting them by priority. Over time, you will see a pattern; some tasks will repeat and maintain a similar priority level. Comparing your daily lists and how much you cross off can be a great way to self-monitor your productivity.
Remember, high-priority tasks are those that benefit you most in the long runor have the greatest consequences for putting off.
“I work better when under pressure.”
While some people do better in a fast-paced environment than others, everyone has their limit. You will want time to review your work at least once, sometimes with a second opinion for perspective, before considering that task complete.
Reconsider what pressures currently exist in your work environment. If you are real with yourself about the importance of a task, that will automatically apply a reasonable amount of pressure (or rather, motivation). In fact, your mind is capable of finding new motivators for just about any task.
“This is too challenging, let’s keep it for next week.”
If a task is important, but challenging, you either need to delegate it (something great leaders do fairly often) or cut the task down into manageable parts. You can always start it and take a break partway through.
New Scientist talks about the ways we delegate our attention, as well as the different reasons for taking breaks. They point out that daydreaming is healthy, and can be a useful tool to assess your needs from moment to moment without putting tasks off until tomorrow or next week.
Consider your environment
How you address this habit depends on context. If you’re struggling to focus in a meeting, for example, it might be the meeting that lacks the pull of focus, not you! Record things so you can listen later, and take breaks every few minutes to absorb what you’re listening to. Show up early with a doodle pad or potential ways to contribute to the conversation.
If your boss is constantly nagging or your teammates are distracting you and one another, don’t be afraid to speak up. You’re just one person, and even great leaders don’t like to let others make it harder to accomplish basic tasks!
Incorporate Self-Care Into Your Daily Routine
Studies show that a self-care routine is the key to success. This starts each Sunday night (or the night before your highest day of productivity, which usually follows a weekly cycle). If you care for yourself, think of how much more you can do for others!
Get enough sleep
Sleep can either make or break your overall functionality. Dozing off during work or other activity could mean you need more sleep or a better quality of sleep. Better sleep can also help you process and retain information the following day and long-term.
The good news is that just thinking about getting enough sleep will improve your work performance and long-term attentiveness. It’s ok to have a few off nights, just do your best to keep a routine and avoid preventable distractions.
Did you know: several countries actually build a nap into their day and consider six hours to be a full work day? If your job doesn’t include this, pipe up or send around a petition. You probably aren’t the only one who would benefit from a change in pace.
In fact, research is beginning to show how more rest and shorter days positively affects companies as a whole!
Think of Procrastination as a Superpower
Are you easily discouraged by failure?
Is an external influence slowly eating away at your motivation?
Focus is a superpower of sorts; you have to learn to control it before you can put it to good use. Your mind is already wired to do this, but it takes practice. Instead of trying to do everything at once, tune in to your mind.
Set the tone when you walk into work each morning, into the home office, or into your child’s room to start a family day. Believe it or not, this mindset doesn’t take a day off: it even sets the tone for how much you enjoy your weekends, holidays, etc.
Eduardo Briceno can tell you more about how to implement a growth mindset for long-term improvement in all areas.
Let Your Mind Do the Work For You
Practice self-awareness and you will foresee potential distractions. Remove yourself from distracting situations. Meditate or find quiet time several times a day to enhance this awareness. Trust your mind to let you know what you need and when.
Think of your body as a vessel full of positive powers. Your stressors can become positive. Your ability to choose where to place your focus can be a positive. Your daydreaming can be fine-tuned and become a powerful tool of imagination.
Even if you think your abilities are the same or lesser than others around you, you always have the ability to change and grow. Try these exercises for training your mind to do its best.