Are you someone who enjoys being productive, who likes to see things moving, who gets enormous self-satisfaction by getting things done? And yet, you have a difficulty to start working on an important task or a project? You keep postponing, thinking that you should start, but still you do not feel motivated to get moving. Hours, days or weeks are passing, until your internal pressure goes to the top (or the deadline is tomorrow) and you finally do it. You feel relieved that it has been done (usually quite fast), but deep inside you know that you would have saved a lot of mental energy if you started slightly earlier.
If you are someone who needs to feel productive, efficient, getting things done, the best gift you can give yourself is to learn how to quickly get moving even if you don’t feel like starting. It might not be easy at the beginning. Any behavioral change requires a lot of focus, self-awareness, and self-management. But the end is very rewarding. You will waste less time, feel more productive, deliver better results and start enjoying things that you were procrastinating on.
In a popular TED talk “Inside the mind of a master procrastinator”, Ted Urban says that we like to do things that are fun and easy. So, we naturally tend to avoid and postpone things that are not fun or easy.
However, our life is not about doing things that are easy and fun. Have you tried watching movies or playing computer games the whole day? Would you truly like to be on holidays forever?
Our life is about doing things that are meaningful, that have a positive impact on our life and the life of other people. We all have a basic need to accomplish great things. We need to be proud of ourselves and see that we have made a difference to the world. Choosing to do only easy and fun things and postpone the rest will not make us happy. But doing challenging and boring things can make us unhappy too. How to cope with this conflict?
Instead of procrastinating on something that is not easy or fun, what if we try to figure out how to make each task easy or fun? Making each step simple to do, simple to remember or just simple in our mind. Creating more fun in everything we do, making it a game or playing with our attitude.
I am sure that you already have a couple of ideas how you could cope with your individual challenges, but here are 6 specific ideas how you can get yourself started.
The reason why we procrastinate on some things is that we are not fully decided whether or not to do them. There is an internal conflict. We have hundreds of reasons, why we should start working on that presentation, but we have also hundreds of reasons why we “cannot” start working on the presentation.
Every time you catch yourselves procrastinating you need to make a conscious decision – do I really have to do it? Do I really want to do it? The decision is one of the most important steps to get moving. Once you are decided that you want to do it, then take another decision. Decide whether to do it NOW or to plan it for LATER. Whatever you decide, take an immediate action (do the task immediately or plan it in your agenda).
It may sound obvious, but the problem with procrastination boils down to not taking action. The thing is, sometimes you simply need to warm up, get energized, and start with a task we enjoy that doesn’t involve the things on which we procrastinate. By completing a simpler or more enjoyable task first, you get an extra level of energy to use to tackle the task you’ve been postponing. For some people, being active is the best motivation.
We often procrastinate on tasks that have faraway deadlines because there is no immediate obligation to do them. This usually pertains to our own personal projects or complex, long-term projects.
In this case, you need to become accountable to someone else and close all doors of escape. If it is a big project, you need to break the project into steps and make yourself accountable for each step.
We usually procrastinate on things that seem repetitive (not challenging enough) or too hard (too challenging). We know they will take a lot of energy.
If you find a task to be boring or difficult, combine it with activities that make you happy and energized.
Some people postpone tasks that take up a lot of time (or are perceived to). I am among them, so for some challenging tasks I give myself a lot of time, which in the end is extremely counterproductive. I get demotivated that it takes so long, I dwell on any potential slow-downs, I keep changing my plan, and before long I just do not want to start at all.
A good way to get around this is to limit the amount of time you will spend on a task. The less difficult and demanding it feels, the better the chance you will do it.
Sometimes we procrastinate on tasks we’ve never done before. We imagine them to be hard or boring, but we don’t actually know how much time or effort they will really take.
In this case, you can simply fool yourself and give yourself permission to “try and see.” You start, try how it feels, and if you don’t like it, you can simply stop. In this way, you remove the pressure on yourself that can be very demotivating.
Whatever you procrastinate on, small things or big things, stop being harsh on yourself. Everybody procrastinates from time to time. Trust you can change your habits, trust you can make anything easy or fun. Start playing with your procrastination, experiment and find out what works the best for you.
Try this: go now and select one task you have postponed for some time and test a new trick. Then come back here and leave a comment. Tell me how it felt.
You can find out more at our workshop “Tackle Procrastination and Get Moving with Your Action Blocks” offered by Ruth Friedman and Lenka Grackova.
Enjoy the game! Enjoy accomplishing great things! Enjoy making your life more fulfilled!