I’m going to be honest with you; I procrastinated writing this article.
I love writing for Mellowed, but right around when I was assigned this article I had just gotten back from a five-month trip abroad, then I got sick with a fever for the first time in 6 years, and right after that it was my birthday, so this article kept getting pushed aside.
But the thing is, even when we have nothing to do, we are all guilty of procrastination, and 20% of people suffer from chronic procrastination.
But what’s the big deal if you procrastinate?
Aside from not getting things done, procrastination has a bunch of other adverse effects, including blowing opportunities, increasing stress and anxiety, not meeting your goals, and lowering your self-esteem, to name few.
Procrastination can also make you more vulnerable to serious health implications.
But don’t worry, procrastination is avoidable, and with these tips, you can learn how to stop procrastinating and start getting things done.
1. Break Things Down
Tim Ferris is a New York Times best-selling author and entrepreneur, and he’s doing something right considering he has a net worth of around $100 million.
He’s also a self-proclaimed procrastinator.
So how does he get things done? By breaking big tasks down into smaller, more manageable steps.
The bigger a task is, the more overwhelming it is to face, but when you break down your tasks into smaller steps, everything gets a lot easier. You don’t need to know every step you have to take, start with breaking a big task down into the first two or three steps and go from there.
When we break big goals or projects down into smaller tasks, we can achieve results or complete steps faster, and this feeling of success, regardless of how small, triggers a release of dopamine in the brain.
Since dopamine is accountable for enhanced motivation and drive, as you complete each smaller step, you have more motivation to keep going onto the next one.
2. Create Accountability
Let’s be honest; if we’re the only person we have to answer to, we don’t feel as obligated to get things done. After all, if no one else knows, we can pretend we were a lot more productive than we really were all day.
Eliminate this potential for procrastination by sharing your goals with others – no matter how small. If you want to finish a rough draft of an article or study four chapters of text or reach out to five new potential clients by the end of the day, let someone know.
Tell your friends, your family, your partner, join an accountability group, or even go as far as sharing your goals on social media.
Creating accountability for our goals, regardless of how small, is so effective that in this study, researchers found that over 70% of participants who created accountability and sent weekly updates to friends were successful in accomplishing goals. On the contrary, only 35% of those who kept their goals to themselves had the same success.
3. Write Your Goals Down
I think to-do lists get a bad rep; I love writing down things that I have to do. Okay, it’s not so much writing down the things I have to do as it is the satisfaction of crossing them off when I’m done, but still.
People who write down their goals have significantly higher success rates than those who only think of them, especially when paired with sharing their goals.
For even better results, when you’ve written down your goals, put them somewhere that you’ll see them often – or put them in the places where your procrastination leads you.
Sticking a post-it reminder of a deadline somewhere on your laptop or computer can do the trick. Or if you work from home and tend to procrastinate by making a “quick snack,” stick a post-it note about finishing that project by 2:00 pm on the fridge door.
4. Boost Your Energy
Sometimes all I need to end hours of procrastination is a good dose of caffeine. It’s hard to find the motivation to get anything done when you’re feeling sluggish, so when you’re feeling your energy levels drop, grab a cup of coffee or tea.
One of my favorite midday or afternoon go-tos, when I don’t want the intensity of coffee, is yerba mate, which combines the strength of coffee without the jitters, the benefits of tea, and the euphoria of chocolate.
If caffeine isn’t your thing, or you’ve already had too much of it, you can also try out some natural energy boosters.
5. Limit (or Eliminate) Your Distractions
Wherever you work from, there are countless distractions to fuel your procrastination and keep you from getting things done, so do yourself a favor and get rid of them.
This will probably be really hard but put your phone away – in a drawer or even in a separate room to keep from constantly checking for messages or reaching for Instagram.
There are even apps and extensions you can use to block certain websites so you can focus on getting things done.
6. Get Real With Time Management
Parkinson’s law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” So if you have a task that you know will only take you two hours to complete, don’t give yourself a whole day to finish it, or it will take an entire day.
Avoid falling victim to Parkinson’s law by setting realistic and specific deadlines for yourself.
Remember that while giving yourself too much time to get something done enables procrastination, not giving yourself enough time can lead to constantly missing deadlines and burning out, so give yourself a little wiggle room too.
7. Visualize Your Success
Whatever you’re procrastinating, whether it be as small as one simple task or as complex as a multi-part project for an important client, finishing it moves you closer to your big goals in life.
A great motivator for getting there is visualizing the moment you do, and what your life will be like then. Visualization can be so powerful, that research shows athletes who visualize themselves crossing the finish line first, do so.
This is in large part because we stimulate the same region of the brain when we visualize something, as when we actually do it.
8. Time Blocking
I have this bad habit of stopping what I’m working on to check my email pretty consistently throughout the day. While sometimes this gives me the chance to respond to an important message, it usually results in wasting time deleting emails I don’t need instead of focusing on my work.
If this sounds familiar with email or anything else, you might benefit from time blocking, the practice of assigning chunks of time in your day to specific tasks.
For example, instead of checking your email throughout the day, you can assign a time block for checking emails from 8:00 am to 8:30 am and again from 5:00 pm to 5:30 pm.
9. The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a productivity hack, and the way it works is that you pick a task, set a timer for 25 minutes, and work on the task until the timer goes off. Then, as a reward, you set a five-minute timer and take a break. You keep this cycle going until you get everything done.
As an extra reward, after every four cycles, you get to take a longer break.
The Pomodoro Technique helps limit distractions and multitasking and gives you a reward to look forward too. Rewards are essential as research shows that frequent rewards for small tasks increase motivation to get things done.
While 25-minute intervals work great for many people, I like to put a little twist on this technique and work for 35 or 45 minutes, and then take a 10-minute break. This allows me to accomplish my tasks while also doing things I enjoy, like reading, stretching, going for a walk, or let’s be honest, scrolling through Instagram.
This method is especially fulfilling when I work at home because I can spend my 10-minute breaks doing laundry or cleaning, which gives me a break from work while making me feel even more productive.
If you’re not so keen on the Pomodoro Technique, you should still implement breaks and rewards throughout your workday. Take a nice walk after finishing a project or treat yourself to that restaurant you’ve been drooling over or add some cash to your travel fund for landing that new client. You deserve it.
How do you get things done? Tell us below!