Stop Procrastinating: And Start Getting Things Done
Life as a procrastinator is not an easy one. You know you should be [insert activity here] but you would rather do anything except [activity].
As the deadline for [ activity] looms closer you become more restless.
And then you reach the point of no return when you have to do something about[ activity] otherwise the consequence will be really bad.
By this time you are in a state of confusion and your fear as reached terror levels.
The result is then a poor or less than your best production of that activity or even an out right fail.
The sad part of all this is that you will think that a lesson in not procrastinating in the future would have been learnt.
That next time, the procrastinator will not set himself or herself up like that again when faced with a similar activity.
But noooo. The procrastinator washes and repeats this behaviour which sadly has very damaging life consequences.
Consequences of procrastination
Some of these life consequences include missed opportunities, coming across as incompetent, careless, irresponsible, having unfinished projects and of course being unable to achieve that dream of success.
Now we all procrastinate to some degree, some more than others. I personally I have struggled and still struggle with it. So it’s a learning moment for me as well.😁
But if you are a chronic procrastinator it means you’re life is almost literally at a standstill because you are either getting nothing done or you are putting in far less than your best.
A mediocre performance will most certainly earn you mediocre reward.
Success demands that you putting your best in other to achieve it.
So like all other stumbling blocks to success such as discouragement and fear which I touched on in previous posts, if this a big problem for you, overcoming procrastination is a must. Ok? Ready? Let’s proceed.
Before I jump into how to overcome procrastination let’s find out some more information about it. Knowledge is power after all.
So what is procrastination anyway?
Wikipedia gives this very good definition :
Procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished by a certain deadline. It could be further stated as a habitual or intentional delay of starting or finishing a task despite knowing it might have negative consequences.WIKIPEDIA
The above explanation is clear so I wouldn’t be saying more or adding to it. Rather I will move on straight to why you may choose to indulge in it despite knowing that it comes with negative consequences.
Why do we procrastinate?
Ah, yes good old fashioned fear is usually one of the main reasons you may find it difficult to stop procrastinating.
You may be afraid that the outcome of a particular activity will end in failure.
The thinking is that postponement of this inevitable conclusion(failure) is better than the actual conclusion. So you stall.
What needs to be done is not fun or interesting:
That maths assignment, essay/ report that needs writing, laundry, dirty plates etc just doesn’t excite you.
After all, it is not as interesting as scrolling through your Instagram feed, watching Zee world, watching football, or playing video games. So you choose not to do them now.
Not in the mood or lack of motivation
This happens to all of us at some time. You get up on the wrong side of the bed. Or your stressed or worried about something or even just tired.
That activity will then get put off to some future date.
Lack of ambition
There is nothing driving you. You have no plans nor goals. You’ve not asked questions like where do I see myself in the future?
What do I need to get done by today? If this is you, you are more likely to procrastinate and I dare say about everything.
You prefer instant gratification or fast rewards
Most of the activities that give the greatest rewards take time and may be difficult/tedious to accomplish.
So you procrastinate about doing them and go for things that are almost effortless and give immediate satisfaction instead.
Say you have been given a gift of 200,000 Naira it will get you a nice cool phone right now. ( Keeping in mind the fact that there is nothing wrong with the one you are currently using except that it’s a few years old with some scratches here and there.)
Meanwhile your friend as just informed you about a decent investment opportunity with good returns.
But ten years or even five years is so far away and you will have to fill forms, get some documentation etc Meanwhile you will look so cool 😎with that new phone if you choose to get it. And the phone shop is just a bus stop away.
So you start to procrastinate: You can always invest later after all you are young… you see where I am going with this right?
The task at hand is too complex
You have no idea where to begin to tackle it from so you just ignore it for as long as possible.
The various ways you procrastinate
Let’s now take a look at the various ways you procrastinate. This is very useful information to know because knowing what you usually do while procrastinating will help guard you against falling into it.
As I said before procrastination leaves a feeling of restless in you. It’s like a tiny voice constantly reminding you that you are suppose to be working on something but you are not.
So in order to suppress that restlessness you find something else to do to take your mind off it.
See if you can recognize your procrastination behavior in any of the examples below:
You have an exam today in a course you find very hard. So you find various creative ways to stall so you don’t have to go and write it. Getting up late, taking the longest road to get there etc
For you, absence or even going in late gives you a good enough excuse for failing.
Denial and (or) Trivializing the task
Let’s say you have a major task to handle in your office. But rather than face it you answer phone calls and send emails all day instead.
And when asked why that task as remained undone you list those other small jobs as your achievement. After all, answering emails and phone calls is work isn’t it?
Well perhaps if it’s part of your J.D (Job Description) or you are a secretary or your core function is in customer service. Whatever the case you have left something major undone that will have negative consequences.
Social media anyone? Or video games or Netflix? These are often handy distractions used to keep you from stressing out about what you may be procrastinating on.
I will explain this with a common example from my own kids.
Me: Why haven’t you started your homework?
Kid: It’s because my brother/ sister is using a pencil. ( Note that they probably other pencils in the house.)
What that really means is I don’t want to do my homework right now.
Mocking/ making fun of another person
This helps you console yourself about the fact that you should be doing what that other person is doing.
For example, you come across one of your friends preparing hard for an upcoming exam: ” Babe leave some marks for us na only you dey write exam?”
This list may not be exhaustive so you will need to on your own go on a journey of self-discovery to find out what you normally do when you are procrastinating over something.
Now that you know what procrastination is and how and why you may procrastinate it’s time to look for solutions.
How to stop procrastinating
As usual this is always the best place to start. Being aware of why and how you procrastinate will go a long way in helping you get the problem under control.
So the minute you realize that what you are actually doing is procrastinating you can choose to tackle the task head-on rather than stall or avoid it.
Get rid of distractions
Distractions come in various shapes and forms. If for example you use social media to procrastinate, you could find apps that could help you block them out for the period of time you need to get that task done.
If it’s the television turn it off or go to another room. Same goes with your phone you can keep it out of reach somewhere else if necessary.
In summary just get rid of your procrastination items or crutches.
At times you’re just not in the mood, you are simply disinterested but that job needs to get done so you have got to motivate yourself.
You can give yourself an ” I can do this pep talk” or you can play music that motivates you or even listen to a talk that motivates you. Just find something that will encourage you to follow through.
Break complicated tasks into smaller steps
At times it is the complexity of the task at hand that makes you procrastinate. In this case, breaking it into smaller steps may just be the way to go.
If for example, you needed to construct a small replica of a house. You could break it into:
- Draw the plan on Monday
- Get the materials on Tuesday
- Do floor of the house on Wednesday
- Build one side of the wall on Thursday
And so on. Broken up into smaller chunks like this will make the task less scary and you would be less likely to procrastinate.
Hang around with people who take action
This I can authoritatively tell you works big time. I spent my NYSC year with a roommate who was very action-driven and it rubbed off on me that period.
It was hard to sit around doing nothing while watching her buzzing around like a bee doing one thing or the other.
Thanks to her I had quite a few things to add to my CV and even made a little money on the side. Watching her work made me want to work too.
Share your goals with someone
Get yourself a partner or a friend and together you can both hold each other to do the things you want to get done.
knowing that you will not like to report work undone to your friend will spur you on and keep you from procrastinating.
Share your goals with the world
Similarly, you can share your goals with the world
Again putting yourself in the spotlight like that and knowing that it will be really bad to have to report work undone to all these many people: your fans, your friends and family will spur you on and keep you going when you feel like slacking off.
Attach a deadline to your task
Having no end in sight makes it easy for you to leave your task undone indefinitely. Setting a deadline gives you something to work towards.
Reward milestones as you go along and when you finally finish
This is super helpful when what needs to be done is long, hard and possibly boring.
You could for example promise yourself a box of pizza or a movie night once you have finished the task.
Try using the two minutes rule
I actually came across this while researching this topic of procrastination. I realize I have been using a variation of it to help with my own procrastination moments.
I will encourage you to read the full article on how the two-minute rules works here
But in summary, what you actually need to do is to find an easy way to start whatever it is you need to get done.
For example, if you need to write a 10000-word essay you could start by telling yourself to write just five sentences. Or write for two minutes only.
What usually happens afterwards is that once you have started you are usually able to keep going and you should.
And it’s a wrap! I hope what I have written up here with prove useful to you in facing your procrastination moments.
Whatever the case you do need to find a way to get around it if it’s a problem for you. Otherwise, it will keep you from reaching the heights that you so desire.
Now over to you what techniques do you use to stop procrastinating?