How to Overcome Procrastination (From Someone Who Does it A Lot)
posted on July 8, 2019 | by Sanhita Mukherjee
I hate to admit this, but here it is — I am quite the procrastinator. I have been one since I was a kid, always waiting to start a homework assignment or a project the night before the big deadline. To this day, I find myself putting off tasks until as late as I can get away with — be it setting up a doctor’s appointment, figuring out my accounts or cleaning my room (unless I have some other pressing task I need to take care of, in which case all I want to do is clean my room).
Now, when you’re working a job, you have deadlines and reviews holding you accountable. But when I started working for myself, this accountability suddenly went away. I knew I had to do something to curb (if not fully kick) this habit of procrastinating if I wanted to get anything done. Here are a few things that have worked well for me — and if you are a procrastinator too, they might be just what you need.
1. Set deadlines and make them official
As any procrastinator worth her salt would know, nothing gets you focused like an impending deadline. So if you are working on something that does not have an official deadline, create one! The same goes for projects with deadlines that are too far away to be of concern right now. Make your deadlines as specific as you can. Don’t just say you’ll finish that big project by the ‘end of the month’ — set exact dates for when you want to finish the outline, the research, the first draft and so on.
Once you know your dates, make them official. Put them in your calendar, pencil them in your to-do list and maybe even tell your clients or the people you are working with. This makes you more accountable for your time and you’re less likely to put off these tasks. (And most people are usually glad to have a detailed timeline sent to them right at the beginning — it takes away the uncertainty and saves them from having to follow up and keep tabs.)
2. Put yourself on a timer
While creating accountability is great, you can’t always look for that from others. There will always be things you cannot create deadlines for, or tell someone about — but you need to get them done anyway.
When you find it difficult to concentrate on such tasks, figure out the amount of time it would reasonably take, and then set a timer for those many hours. Having a clock literally ticking down to 00:00 can work wonders in helping you refocus every time you’re tempted to get up, wander away or start doing that other chore you just remembered.
This is also helpful in those situations when a small task seems more and more overwhelming, the more you keep putting it off. I once needed to write a simple email, but I avoided doing so for months, simply because I didn’t know what to say. And of course, the more I delayed it, the more awkward it got. Putting yourself on timer in these situations can actually come as a relief — you know that when the clock runs out, this task will be behind you for good!
3. Tackle the task for 10 minutes
The next time you procrastinate on something because you’re feeling too unmotivated or lazy, try this — tell yourself that you’ll do it just for 10 minutes. This is a very short amount of time, so doing something for 10 minutes never feels too overwhelming and doesn’t require too much motivation. But it tricks your brain into getting started, which is often the biggest hurdle we face.
Also, this is usually enough time to get you in the zone for whatever you’re doing. More often than not, you’ll find that once your 10 minutes are up, you’ll want to keep working on that task after all. I found this trick really helpful last year, when I was going through a pretty bad fitness rut. I felt unexcited about working out for an entire hour — but once I was already in my workout clothes, and warmed up, I usually always felt that I might as well go on to complete the full set.
4. Put away your phone
Ok, you know this one already. In all fairness, you may not pick up your phone with the intention of whiling away time — you may just be looking something up, or checking an e-mail that just came in. But once that phone is in my hands, I cannot tell you how often I catch myself absent-mindedly scrolling through Instagram or going through an endless stream of texts on some Whatsapp group.
So when I say put your phone away, I mean literally put it away — maybe keep it in another room, or (if you’re doing the timer thing) put it across the room, far from where you’re sitting. You’ll find that you’re not mindlessly reaching for it as much, if you have to physically get up and walk over to it.
These 5 steps to planning your week should also help. Good luck!