At some point or another, everyone has procrastinated. Whether there is a big project to complete, or a new habit you’re trying to build like practice a language or exercising, procrastination has gotten the best of all of us.
Nobody is immune, but it can be beaten.
Procrastination is, more often than not, us taking the easiest possible route. We’re wired to be like this – if we weren’t naturally discouraged from doing challenging tasks everyone would all be super fit, speak a dozen languages and being productive would be our default.
But there are small, easy methods you can employ to reduce the difficulty of challenging tasks and make being productive your default. Today, we present to you six of our favorite methods to beat procrastination and accomplish our goals more often:
1. Find Your Why
Why do you want or need to do this task in the first place? What will be the reward for completing it?
Sometimes we lose sight of why we took on a habit or project in the first place, so it’s important to remind ourselves what motivated us in the first place.
Are you preparing for a race? Want to connect with your German friends on a deeper level?
2. Make it Ridiculously Easy to Comply
Want to go to the gym every morning? Then pack your gym bag before you go to bed and set it either next to your bed or next to the door on our way out. Learning a language? Just practice for ten minutes. And make it easy to practice – have your flashcards ready and in a place where they will be in your way when you go to do another task, like leaving them on your keyboard. If you have a digital app you like, such as Memrise, do it while you wait for a program to load or while you wait for your morning coffee. Practicing an instrument? Leave it out. Set up a place for it outside of its case where it will be safe but easy to grab and highly visible.
The point is, do whatever you can to make complying as easy as possible and eliminate any potential deterrents. You only have so much willpower, when that starts to run out it is easy to put things off for another day.
3. Have a Friend Help Keep You Accountable
It’s easy to explain away to yourself why you didn’t do that thing you were supposed to do, it’s a lot harder (and embarrassing) to have to admit to a friend that you didn’t do that thing.
Find a trusted friend and tell them your objective and agree to do something embarrassing or to donate some cash to an organization you dislike if you fail to meet your goals. They’ll help encourage you and keep you on track, and you’ll have even more reason not to put that thing off.
Bonus points if your friend joins you in your goal. Everything is better with a friend.
4. Set Up Reminders
For certain things, it’s easy to have them set up in a place where they are in your way. It’s easier to remember to do a thing when it’s often in your way or in your line of vision. But for certain tasks this isn’t exactly possible.
For those things, set up reminders. Stick post-it notes in places you frequently look (like along the sides of your computer monitor) and reminders on your phone at ideal times to do this task.
5. Daily Practice
Overcoming procrastination is akin to getting rid of a bad habit and building a new, better habit. To beat procrastination, it requires daily practice. Starting easy, just shoot for 5-10 minutes per day of completing the task. After a week, increase the time a little, but not too much so it wont overwhelm you.
To keep track of your progress, get out a sheet of paper and make a chart of 7 columns and 4 rows. For each day you hit your minimum required for your task, you get a nice big green circle on that day. Post this chart somewhere highly visible, so that you will see it often. Once it’s posted and you’ve started, don’t break your chain! No matter what, make sure that your daily minimum is met.
The chart will serve in part to remind you to keep on track, and part as a point of pride – be proud of your successes!
6. Do the Hardest Part First
More often than not, the hardest task is the one we need to do most. Commit just to doing that hard thing. Break it down into smaller, more manageable chunks and then knock that sucker out.
By comparison, everything else afterward will feel like a breeze to complete.
Getting the big, hard task done will likely not only require the most willpower to get done, which is why you should tackle it first and not last, but it will also serve as a powerful boost in momentum once it’s complete.
So complete that really hard task first thing and make today a successful day. Then, ride the motivational momentum through the rest of your day.
Bonus: 7. Time Box Your Goal
Time boxing is a powerful and easy to implement method to get things done whether you really want to do them or not, and as a result becomes a huge source of productivity, momentum and creativity.
Get a timer, either on your phone or a physical timer (we prefer an egg timer and to just leave our phones completely alone) and set a time limit for doing your task. You will spend ONLY that time doing ONLY that task. Set a reasonable amount of time – enough to get the task done but not so much that you are completely demotivated to even begin. Commit so that once that timer starts, you get immediately to work. No distractions, just the task. As soon as the timer goes off, you are done. Drop it and leave it. You are completely off the hook from this task! You’ve officially met your minimum required work, so get up and go do something completely different. Get a glass of water or go for a short stroll. Bask in your success.
Was this article helpful? What methods have you tried, and what was your experience? Let us know in the comments below!
Photo Credit: Pete Zarria