Have you ever had a simple task you needed to do, but for some reason couldn’t get yourself to just start?
A work email you were supposed to have answered a week ago or even a pile of dishes, tasks that can seem mundane and easy can sometimes take ages to get done.
I’ve been a manic procrastinator for most of my life, to the point where I would even procrastinate things that I enjoy doing. But over time, I’ve learned ways to deal with it.
1. Keep track of your habits.
Humans are creatures of habit. Whether you realize it or not, you are guided by patterns every day of your life. Most of us are aware of the positive habits in our lives: Exercising, cleaning up, etc.
This is because we’ve put a lot of effort into creating these habits. Try to cultivate simple, straightforward habits. The classic is making your bed. It barely takes any time at all and it’s a great way to get your day started.
A lot of our bad habits are harder to notice from ourselves. But once you focus and analyze your behavior, you’ll notice a lot of things that can stand in the way of being productive.
When you decide to do a task, what do you do? An issue I tend to have is that when I sit down to do a task, I find myself doing a lot of little things first, convinced that they will help me with my task.
For example, I go get a cup of coffee. Then I go put on a sweater because it’s a little bit chilly. Then I adjust my chair. Then I go get a desk lamp in the next room because it’s a little bit too dark. Etc, Etc.
All of these little things seem like nothing, but they add up and keep you distracted from whatever you need to do. Cut out the fat.
2. Break your tasks up in smaller portions.
When I was younger, I often struggled with eating a lot. I was sometimes a picky eater and I wasn’t very hungry.
My grandmother had a great little trick for it: She would divide whatever was on my plate in half and made me pick a half to eat. So I would try to pick the half that seemed smaller, and I almost always ended eating the other half as well.
When a task is too daunting or seems too steep of a hill to climb, it can paralyze you and make you put it off for later.
If you have been putting off studying or finishing your work, start with the smallest chunk you can. Study for 10 minutes. Read 5 pages. Do 10 push-ups. Make sure you lower the threshold to the point where it seems easily manageable. And more often than not, you will cruise on the momentum you built.
3. Dive in on 3… 2… 1!
When I was younger, I hated cold water. It would take me forever to get in. Grown-ups would say things like “Rub some water on your neck, it will help your body get used to the temperature”. But that was nonsense. All it did was give me goosebumps and made me clatter my teeth to bits.
What did the trick for me though was to simply count down from 3. At 1, no matter what, I jumped. When I was in the air, I would regret it, but by then it was too late. And once in the water, I would realize that I was being silly.
To this day, I still do the exact same thing. When I need to make an important phone call, for example, I simply start counting down and press dial.
The simplicity is that you force yourself to set things in motion and once they are, you have no choice but to follow through. Once you splash into the cold water, you have no choice but to swim. Once the person on the other end of the line picks up, you have no choice but to take care of business.
4. Be kind to yourself.
There are countless reasons why you could be having difficulty with procrastination. But most are somehow related to fear. Fear of failure. Social anxiety. And so on.
Don’t subdue these emotions, embrace them. Because ignoring the angst that caused you to delay whatever you needed to do is like ignoring a smoke coming from the toaster. If you just convince yourself that it’s fine and you’ll take care of it later, the small fire that you could have easily extinguished will keep growing until you freeze up completely.
So don’t ignore your feelings, and don’t beat yourself up for having them.