There’s always something to be done that we don’t want to do, so we procrastinate. We drag it on. Say we’ll tackle it tomorrow. Or simply put it deep in a pile of work for some other day.
Here are five ways to minimize procrastination and be more effective with your time:
- Does it need to be done?: While we should tackle things we need to do when we need to do them, we would be remiss to ignore the reasons why we procrastinate. When you analyze all the things you typically punt down the road, you paint a picture of a big source of friction and noise in your life. Some of these things need to be done by you, but maybe some aren’t that important, or can be mitigated in another way. This triage can greatly simplify your life, but for those things left over…
- It’s not about willpower, it’s about habits: As Charles Duhigg reminds us in his pivotal book The Power of Habit, willpower is a muscle that can fatigue. Tasks we tend to avoid quietly drain this willpower, much like a vampire load, nefariously depleting us throughout the day. The opportunity is to develop habits that make tackling these tasks a process, not a subjective battle. But how?
- Cue the behaviour: Habits following a cycle of cue, craving, routine, reward. A cue can be that morning break you always take or even a hunger pang. Nailing the cue gives us a fighting chance to be successful. Set a daily or weekly alarm to review all the things you’ve been avoiding. Shining a light on the task is the first step.
- It’s a game of nudges: Static friction is always greater than dynamic friction, meaning that it takes a disproportionate amount of energy to get started. The solution is to break the task into the smaller tasks (aim for 5-10), ensuring that the first step is the easiest. Gaining even a small amount of momentum can make all the difference.
- Keep your eyes on the prize: we have a negativity bias. Evolutionarily it made sense to be aware of potential pitfalls to avoid. Thus, when we procrastinate, we’re often amplifying the pain, and disregarding the reward. Visualize and feel what it would be like to get that annoying thing done. This will make the reward more visceral and act as increased motivation to overcome the friction of starting.
And when in doubt…
Pause. Breathe, And quiet the NOISE.