Listen to this article now
As the radiant spring weather sweeps in and we say goodbye to the cold, dark days of winter, many of us can only focus on one thing: needing a vacation. The sun has come out to play, and there’s nothing you would rather be doing than relaxing at the beach and sipping cocktails at sunset.
Yet here you are stuck in front of your computer dreading the various tasks you have on your to-do list. Because let’s be honest, it can feel impossible to find motivation when all you want to do is take a break from your responsibilities.
However, a problem arises when you realize that you’re wanting to take a break all the time. So much so that you can’t even bring yourself to start your work because the idea of moving from the bed or couch seems like too much to stomach. What is this horrible avoidance called?
Procrastination — and it can be especially bad this time of year. On top of the beautiful weather I previously mentioned, we’re also living in a lull most of us fall into between the new year and summertime. We’re no longer strongly committed to the resolutions we made when entering 2021 (at least most of us aren’t, anyway), and it’s not quite the time to go on that much-needed summer getaway. Add to that the fact we’ve been in lockdown for a year, and you’re looking at the perfect storm for a wicked case of procrastination.
Though I don’t have the magic key to make you stop procrastinating for good (believe me, I wish I did), I do have a few tips to overcome it. They all have to do with one common theme: patience.
It can be easy to feel lazy or worthless when you’re hit with a wave of procrastination, but oftentimes beating ourselves up isn’t going to stop us from doing it—if anything it’s going to make us less motivated. Why would telling yourself you’re pathetic or worthless make you feel ready to take on a load of tasks? Don’t have an answer? That’s because there isn’t one. Luckily, there are other ways to work through procrastination that will leave you doing it less. You can thank me later.
Start With One Small Task
One of the main reasons many of us procrastinate is because we become overwhelmed by a huge project or a giant list of tasks we have to accomplish. Instead of becoming discouraged when being overtaken by all you need to get done, take baby steps.
Think of a small, practical task you need to get done (bonus points if it’s something you enjoy). Maybe that’s eating breakfast, taking a shower, or making your bed, but as soon as you do one task, you’ll feel your want to procrastinate start to shrink until it eventually disappears for good. After you realize you’re capable of doing one task and get into the rhythm of accomplishing things, you’ll feel far more equipped to take on the big projects you have to finish later in the day.
Stop Negative Self-Talk as Soon as It Starts
Negative self-talk can feel like second nature for many of us. So much so that we get so used to it we become unaware of it when it happens. It can be as minor as a little voice whispering, “Get up, lazy!” or as severe as not being able to move because your brain is convincing you that you shouldn’t be alive. Either way, I have good news. You can get rid of it for good.
Though the solution may seem too simple, you’ll realize it can be pretty tricky when you try it out. What is it? Becoming aware of your thoughts.
People aren’t commonly focusing on what they’re thinking about because a thousand thoughts are zipping through our minds each day, however, if you want to stop negative self-talk, you have to be paying enough attention to catch yourself in the act. As soon as you recognize the harmful thought, correct it. Say you spill your coffee in the car. Instead of telling yourself that you’re a careless clutz, say “it’s okay, I forgive you.” It may seem unnatural at first, especially if you’re a chronic negative self-talker like I was, but you’ll start to find that your relationship with yourself will strengthen, your confidence will boost, and you’ll be able to pull yourself out of a procrastination episode much easier because you’ll have grace for yourself. You’ll replace self-critique with having patience and forgiveness with yourself, leaving you in a far better head space to start your work.
Open Up to Someone
It may feel weird to reach out to someone just to share about your procrastination struggles, but it could leave you feeling so much better. Procrastination is a universal thing, and when we talk with someone we trust about it, they’ll often be able to relate to us, validate our feelings, and give helpful advice.
When you’re stuck in a cycle of procrastinating, it can be easy to become frustrated or confused with yourself because you can’t pinpoint why you’re doing it or how to stop. However, when you realize someone else deals with the same thing (and trust me, 99% of us do), you’re far more likely to be patient with yourself and seek out solutions when procrastinating instead of sulking in self-pity.
Try Out the Pomodoro Technique
Especially good for when you find yourself procrastinating when working on a large project, The Pomodoro Technique offers you a work/break schedule that sets you up for success. Created by business owner and productivity coach, Francesco Cirillo, The Pomodoro Technique is a time-management system aiming to teach people how to work with time as opposed to racing against the clock.
The technique revolves around breaking up your work into five sessions. Your focused work sessions will be 25 minutes long and you’ll be rewarded with a five minute break at the end of each. After you repeat this four times, you can treat yourself with a 15 to 30 minute break before starting the process over again. This time-based structure allows your mind to rest and refresh multiple times during your work, prevents you from procrastinating, and leaves you finishing your tasks without feeling like your brain is fried.
Reward Yourself When You Finish
Last, but certainly not least, sometimes, you just need to bribe yourself a little bit. Whether that’s promising yourself a glass of wine after a stressful work-day you’re dreading or telling yourself you’ll get to grab dinner with friends after finishing a project, planning how you’ll reward yourself after you get challenging tasks done is a great way to motivate you to do it in a timely manner. Who doesn’t deserve a drink after checking off the final task on their to-do list?
Procrastination is something the majority of us will battle multiple times throughout our life, but feeling poorly about ourselves every time we do it isn’t something we should put up with. Try out these tips next time you feel yourself starting to procrastinate, and I can assure you you’ll be satisfied with the results. If you’re not, at least you end up with a treat at the end of the day, right?
What other tips do you have for overcoming procrastination? Let us know down in the comments.
This article originally published on GREY Journal.