Procrastination: Strategies That Actually Work

Joynul Abedin

9 May, 2019 12:00 AM printer

Procrastination: Strategies That Actually Work

Procrastination is a challenge we have all faced at one point or another. Sometimes it is those mundane things - like sorting through old files, reconciling accounts, or tidying the linen cupboard. And too often, we find ourselves procrastinating when we know we should not do so. It is interesting that procrastination is not just a human problem. Newton’s first law of motion says that a body at rest will stay at rest until compelled to do otherwise. But just because procrastination is universal does not mean it is a good idea. Procrastination can go beyond work, affecting other important parts of our lives.

Delaying an important life decision, like breaking up, making a serious commitment, going back to school, or finally changing career paths, can lead to running in place for years. At the end, we kick ourselves. We regret the time wasted as deadlines approach, time runs out, and opportunity slips through our fingers. Why do we do this to ourselves? The solution seems to be very easy. But reality is far more complicated, and to make matters worse, procrastination is in our very genes. But should we allow letting it go? Well, those of us who procrastinate can find our own strategies to help us focus and resist our impulses. Therefore, here are some approaches through which we can stop procrastinating:

Set goal: Part of the reason we procrastinate is because the task at hand seems too daunting. It is a lot easier to get started on a project when you establish simple, reachable goals rather than a big, vague plan. Instead of telling yourself, ‘I will study biology tonight,’ say, ‘I will study chapter six tonight’. This makes your goals less intimidating and more attainable.

Set a deadline: So many people get trapped in the cycle of the word ‘someday’ or ‘eventually’. The truth is ‘someday’ and ‘eventually’ never come. So, it is important to set a specific date for when you want your goals to be accomplished. If you have a due assignment, aim to have it completed one or two days in advance. That way, if something unexpected happens, you still have extra time to complete it.

Break your goal: The bigger your goal or the change you want to make, the more quickly it can send you into overwhelm. So if your goal feels daunting, break it into manageable, bite-sized steps. Remember, you do not have to know every step of the way; just the next few steps immediately ahead. Your next steps will become obvious as you move along.

Visualize the future: Imagine the emotions you will feel. Picture yourself in a favourite place celebrating what you have accomplished. Set up a reward system to ensure you celebrate progress and small successes as you go along. Whether a fun activity with friends, or a treat for yourself - make it something that acknowledges your progress and effort.

Build accountability: Enlist a support team or an accountability partner. Set up a time to check-in regularly and let them know ways in which they can help. For instance, remind yourself of past accomplishments, and why you set about making these changes in the first place.

Control fear: Fear is a powerful emotion that can keep us mired in excuses. Yet, by focusing on what you do not want, you can harness it in your favor. So write down how you will feel a year from now if you do nothing. Be brave and really honest with yourself about the cost of continued inaction. After all, if nothing changes, nothing eventually changes!

Start from today: Building momentum is crucial as you start out. So commit to stepping out of your comfort zone at least once per day. Begin today. It can be something really small. After all, it doesn’t matter how fast you are going, as long as you are stepping forward in a direction that inspires you. So take that first step, then another, and then another. After all, your action will definitely get rewarded!