Do You Enjoy Being Productive and yet Procrastinate on Important Tasks? Six Tips to Get Moving

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?

What if we decide not to choose WHAT to do, but HOW to do it?

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.

1. Decide and act

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).

Special Tricks:

  • If you decide to do it now and still feel resisting:  decide, count one to five, get up and do it. A coach Mel Robbins recommends this technique to stop your brain from over thinking and finding excuses why not to take an action.
  • If it is something that you cannot do immediately: decide and plan the time in your agenda, make space for it.  You can forget it for the time being, but when you get a reminder in your calendar, just do it.
  • Plan regular time and day in a week you do activities you usually procrastinate on (e.g. administrative tasks or cleaning inbox). When an activity is already on your agenda, you make a deciding process simpler – no need to decide, just do.

2. Take action

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.

Special Tricks:

  • If you don’t know how to start a difficult project, first sit down and plan how you can go around this project. Do a little research on any information already available and how others accomplish this task with ease. Limit this part to 10 to 15 minutes so you’re not using it as a reason to procrastinate even more. Make the task as simple and easy for yourself as possible. You might realize that the project is not as difficult as you had thought and get a few ideas for how to start working on it.
  •  If you catch yourself sitting at your computer not knowing how to handle a problem and feeling like the best route is to postpone, try talking to a friend or colleague. See if they can provide you with any ideas. Take a break, but make sure you come back and try again.
  • Ask yourself: “What task would make me happy right now?” Then do it. Maybe it’s drinking a cup of coffee or listening to a song you like. Just don’t use these as excuses for procrastinating! Choose one or two enjoyable activities to build up some motivation, then come back to what you’ve been postponing.

3.  Close all doors of escape

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.

Special Tricks:

  • If it’s a personal project, tell a friend that you want to start and ask him/her to check in with you on specific dates. Knowing that someone else will be checking on our progress can be a great motivator.
  • If it’s a work project, set up a meeting with your boss or colleagues to review specific steps you already accomplished. Not only will their oversight help you get moving, but it will also give you further insight on how to progress with your project if you get stuck.

4.  2 in 1

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.

Special Tricks:

  • If you don’t like cleaning your mailbox, but you really enjoy listening to music, turn the music on, get in a good mood, and start cleaning your inbox. If you like to compete (even with yourself), make it a game – how fast can you clean your inbox?
  • If you find it hard to work on a project alone and prefer working with a team, find a colleague, mentor, or adviser to help so you will feel supported by the vibe of collaboration.

5. Limit the time

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.

Special Tricks:

  • Try the Pomodoro Technique – spend 25 minutes on a task, then take a 5-minute break, rotating this technique for several cycles. It is actually a fun method – it feels like playing a computer game.
  • Or you can try specific time slots – set a timer and spend only one hour on your project each day, but don’t allow yourself to wander off to any other task until your hour is up.
  • Make your calendar full of many different projects: you will feel stretched and yet enjoy the variety of tasks.

6. Try and see

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.

Special Tricks:

  • If you catch yourself not feeling like doing it (go running, start on responding emails), decide to give it a try and allow yourself to stop at any time. You will see, you might find out you enjoy it in the end.
  • If you do not feel like going to a networking event or a sports class, tell yourself to go there and see if to enter or stay. When you are there, you will probably do not want to waste time going back home, even though you are totally free to do it.

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!

 

 

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Lenka Grackova

Bringing more passion in any type of work. Always on the hunt to find a playful and enjoyable way to create and embrace change, develop new skills and discover oneself through challenges.

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