Procrastination is a mechanism for dealing with the fear of starting or completing a task. No one is lazy in everything: you can be unable to start a new chapter of the novel, but at the same time calmly continue the obligatory reading of your colleague’s course.
A good way to start managing procrastination is to keep a procrastination journal where you will jot down times, activities, your thoughts and feelings, your excuses, your attempts to solve the problem, and your resulting thoughts and feelings.
A typical procrastination cycle looks like this:
- You let the task influence whether you are happy or not and your self-esteem.
- You want to do a task very well in order to satisfy your perfectionism.
- By doing so, you increase the chance of failure by setting a very high bar.
- You are afraid that you cannot live up to the expectations you have placed on yourself. You cannot act.
- You avoid the problem through procrastination.
- Right before the deadline, you are forced to do something. You are doing, but not as well as you could in the given time.
The first step to keeping procrastination at bay: building security. Failure doesn’t have to be the end of the world. You need to remember that many very successful people have had big failures. Your value as a person does not depend on the task.
You can reduce the pressure that you feel through a conscious attitude to the language. Avoid “I must”, “must”, “I must”. Try to think “I want,” “I choose,” and “I have decided.”
“I need” means that the current situation does not suit you and you are going to do something about it. This is a reason for action, not a reason for complaint.
“I have to finish” is a useless way of thinking. The best way is “When can I start?” Try to get the job done at least partially long before the deadline.
Part work is an important aspect: you don’t have to complete a large project in one go. Take a small, controlled bite and make it. The project can be large, but it can be mastered in smaller chunks. Make a rough draft. Or one test chapter. It may even be easier to make a draft intentionally clumsy and edit it afterwards.
To say “I must be perfect” is inhumane. You are allowed to be human. Learn from mistakes, respect your limits. Don’t criticize yourself harshly. Have compassion for yourself.
Take a vacation. Friends, free time, your partner. They are important and helpful to you. Incorporate leisure time and sports into your schedule. Don’t let this be of secondary interest to “when I find the time”.
magine a specific goal and rewards. Let them drag you. Do not think about the long way to the goal, think about the path that you have traveled.
Don’t overload yourself. You don’t have to start with perfection. Take the time to learn and feel secure about the task. Don’t belittle your accomplishments and progress.
Plan the other way around and come up with many small deadlines. Start with an external deadline. Plan the opposite of what needs to be done to complete the task by this time. Plan intermediate steps with your own much shorter deadlines.
Channel your energies into actions that remove the threats you fear.
Consider the worst-case scenario. What’s the worst that can happen to you? Imagine what you would do in this situation. Are there any alternatives? Maybe there are some pluses in the worst-case scenario? How can you reduce the likelihood of a worst-case scenario?
Sometimes people work on tasks well enough and productively, but they never finish them. Continuing an almost complete task also requires energy. Just put that energy into completing and get rewards.
Excessive preparation before starting a task is also just procrastination. Limit your cooking and then just start. If you really need research and other preparations, you will find that later.
Don’t be discouraged by the seeming lack of progress after you start. It often happens that the beginning is the most difficult and slowest stage. The time spent in the first phase is not wasted, you have a better understanding of the problem and the task.
The fear of increasing demands on yourself after successfully completing your current job is irrational. You will have the opportunity to make an informed decision later. Don’t worry about it now.
If you feel like you need more time: are you sure this is not just perfectionism? Not everything needs to be polished to a shine. Weigh the cost and benefit of continuing work versus completing it.
Use “Unschedule” Non-planning is the same as planning, only it starts with the fact that you add blocks of recreational activities and free time to the plan. You add tasks to the plan only after you have worked on them for half an hour without distraction. This gives you a real-world overview of how much work you can basically do. Tasks are never planned in advance, only written down by fact.
Aim for thirty minutes of quality work without distractions. Then take a break.
Failure to follow the above principles is inevitable. Be on your guard. Watch them. What were your thoughts and feelings at the time of the mistake? Why did you go back to old approaches? Plan how you will deal with them in the future.
Discard goals that cannot be achieved or started in the near future. Change plans and reschedule them at a later time. Don’t let these goals hang without action towards their fulfillment.