We all do it, and we all kind of hate ourselves for it. Procrastination steals time from what will actually make us move forward towards our goals, and identifying when and why we are doing it will help us prevent it from happening. Personally, I procrastinate because I’m overwhelmed by the work load and difficulty level of what I need to do, so finding solutions in my life that will make me less intimidated is crucial. I really need to work on it, as it leaves me in a state where I lower my ambition, and pushes me further away from my goal than I could have been, plus the never ending rising stress level that needs to be battled. I’m in the middle of writing my master thesis and I’m freaking out and procrastinating like a crazy person, but I know that I’m doing it, and I know what to do to make it stop! These 7 steps are the result of five years at university, and what works for me and many of my friends. I hope that you can find some inspiration in this and figure out what works for you!
NO 1. IDENTIFY THE REASON
Identifying the reason why you keep procrastinating is the first step. I get intimidated by the work load, difficulty level, and sometimes my own ambition, and I work from that. I structure my work, divide it into smaller parts that are easier to finish, give myself deadlines and make sure I sleep enough, run and eat healthy (most of the time) to give my mind the best possible condition for being productive. Identify what bothers you, and how to give yourself the best conditions for progress.
NO 2. IDENTIFY YOUR SIREN SONG(S)
What is the factor that pulls you away from your work, what are the temptations that make you lose focus and concentration? For me it’s Instagram, running and tidying. Just because «a little break will do me good», «the run will make me feel so much better» and «I will regain my focus if everything around me is tidy». Yes, it probably will, but I know that the real reason I want to go for a run is that I don’t really want to work. If your siren song is Facebook, twitter, calling your friends, going for coffee or a cigarette, Pinterest, reading blogs or online newspapers then save it for your breaks. Identify it, and stop it from happening during your work time.
NO.3 MAKE A WEEKLY AND DAILY TO-DO LIST
Making an overview of what needs to be done during the week is a huge motivation for getting things done for me. If I can see the direct effect my procrastination will have on the rest of my week I’m less likely to give into the temptations leading me away from work. If I can see that it will cut time off my evenings and time with friends and make me incredibly stressed and forced to work Saturday and Sunday to make up for lost time during the week, chances are that I will make the extra effort to ignore my siren song and get stuff done.
Structure your week with the most important things that needs to be done overall, who you need to call, meet and email, what tasks are the most important, workouts, ambitions, time off and rewards. It should be very clear which tasks needs to solve each day, and how they are connected in the bigger picture of your week.
Your daily to-do list should be a lot more detailed, (you really can’t be too specific) and what I learned is that if I include all kinds of stupid, little tasks that I can solve when my brain is fried and I want to stop, I can switch to easier tasks and keep going for longer. Using easier tasks as little breaks makes me feel like I’m still doing something, and moving forward, which keeps my motivation higher. Pick three tasks that have the highest priority and use the others to vary the intensity and concentration level throughout the day.
NO.4 PLAN YOUR DAY, INCLUDING BREAKS
The key word here is structure. It is much easier to sit down and actually do what you need to do if you know what tasks to solve before you actually sit down. Work with your to-do list and plan out when you want to have lunch, and the necessary little breaks before and after, and when your day will end. I like to prepare solutions for what I will do if I get demotivated and there’s still a while to go before my next break. Whether it is lying down for five minutes, allowing myself to check Instagram or stretch a little, it helps to keep me from procrastinating.
NO.5 GIVE YOURSELF REWARDS
Motivation has many faces! Sometimes the thought of handing in my thesis and feeling really proud of what I accomplished drives me, other times it’s the day off with my friends that drive me forward, but most days it’s as easy as knowing that I can go for a run or a demanding Crossfit WOD when I finish my work. Exercise has always been my number one thing to fight off stress and make myself feel good. Sweating my frustration away is still what I feel like doing when I'm stuck, I just need to keep it as a reward to prevent it from being my very strongest siren song.
NO.6 ASK FOR HELP AND MOVE FORWARD
This point really depends on your reason for procrastinating in the first place, and when I feel intimidated I figure out whether I need to suck it up and get to work or ask for help. At this point in the process of writing my thesis I need help to move forward, so I scheduled a meeting with my advisor. Not because he is supposed to tell me that it’s going to be alright, but because it is a step in the direction of not ignoring the problem that leads me to procrastinating, and eliminate the feeling of being overwhelmed. Doing something about it, and owning the situation makes me feel like I can deal with it, and makes me less intimidated.
NO.7 HAVE A CONSTANTLY FLEETING EXPECTATION OF GOAL/PERFROMANCE
If you have too high ambitions that makes you unmotivated because you can never reach your own goals, you need to adjust. You should have an ultimate goal, of how you will perform under the best of circumstances, and a fleeting expectation of how you will perform, depending on your current condition. This step has changed so much about the way I work, and how I end up performing! You should do your very best, and your very best varies from week to week, so the goals need to be adjusted to keep your motivation high, and procrastination low. Keep your goal in mind, it will keep you motivated!