Procrastination is much like trying to catch a train. We have every intention of leaving early for it but often put it off until we’re running late. As we start to get ready, our mind drifts to the other things to do—empty the dishwasher, check the mail, watch an episode of Friends… Before we know it, we’re dashing out the door, grabbing our coat along the way and forgetting our train schedule. Running up to the train station, we hear the whistle blowing and find ourselves rushing to jump on the train that’s already pulling away from the station. What if we could make sure we catch the train every time without stress? I’ve compiled 6 of my favorite tips to help stop procrastination by changing our mindsets so that we can minimize stress and easily “catch the train” every time.
Understand How Procrastination Affects You and Why You Do It
The first step in overcoming procrastination is to acknowledge that you’re doing it. Once you can acknowledge that, you can begin to explore why you’re doing it and how it’s affecting you. There’s usually a reason why procrastination rears its ugly head and it’s usually associated with negative emotions. For example, I procrastinated writing this blog for two weeks. There. I admitted it. I procrastinated because I was feeling overwhelmed with a bunch of projects, felt hypocritical writing about procrastination when I was already doing it, and couldn’t make my brain conceptualize a format for the blog. I procrastinate when I’m feeling overwhelmed because I get “stuck.” Procrastination makes me feel like a failure, which in turn makes me harder on myself. If you find yourself procrastinating, sit down and think about how you feel when you procrastinate and why you’re doing it. Once you know how it affects you, you will see that those negative feelings you’re having just aren’t true. You’re not a terrible person. Knowing why you do it can help you to understand the root cause of procrastination in your life.
Choose a Productive Environment
Once you acknowledge the reasoning behind your procrastination, it’s a good idea to make sure that when you have projects to complete, you place yourself in a productive environment. It’s important to carefully decide where you will work on your tasks and with whom. Avoid places with a lot of distractions such as TV, throngs of humans milling about (unless you feel empowered by the energy of a bunch of people), and loud music. Sometimes simply changing your environment can help to get you unstuck.
Set Reasonable Goals
When you set unreasonable goals for tasks and projects, you simply set yourself up to procrastinate and fail because you already know they’re not going to work. You are self-sabotaging when you do that because you give yourself an excuse to fail. Instead, set SMART goals. These goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. Realistic, achievable goals help prevent procrastination because we know we can complete them in the timeline we need to.
Instead of setting specific schedules for your tasks, develop a flexible schedule for them that only includes the most important tasks. Break big tasks up into much smaller chunks so that you make measurable progress. When you try to plan every moment of your day, it can be extremely overwhelming. For people who have trouble with procrastination, it’s surprisingly more motivating to have a general schedule, with only important appointments at specific times. That way, they can work around those specific appointments and autonomously choose their destiny.
You know the kinds of things that motivate you to complete a task. Why not create your own reward system so that you can celebrate successful completion of your tasks? Rewarding yourself is a good way to positively reinforce your progress and help you stay on task.
We’re all going to slip up when trying to overcome procrastination. It’s important in those moments to not slip into a shame spiral. Be gentle and forgive yourself when you slip up. This is something that requires constant practice and it’s not something that will change overnight. If you slip, just get back up on the platform and wait for the next train to come. You’ll do better tomorrow!
So the next time you find yourself at Procrastination Station, remember these tips so that you’ll be comfortable in your train car before it pulls out of the station. In the fine words of Dr. Seuss:
“And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed).”