Procrastination is the thief of time. How many times have you heard this phrase doing rounds ever since your school life?
I can call myself a master procrastinator because I am not immune to either. But, over time, I’ve learned to identify some core principles about procrastination, the reasons behind this principle, and how to overcome it in a practical way.
And I can say that it's due to the number of books, YouTube videos, podcasts, tons of trial-and-error methodologies that I have tried to slowly eradicate the habit of procrastination away from my life. It’s not a complete eradication though. But the pace is much faster now.
But before all this, let me explain a little about what is procrastination first.
What is Procrastination?
According to Wikipedia, Procrastination is the action of unnecessarily and voluntarily delaying or postponing something despite knowing that there will be negative consequences for doing so. Although typically perceived as a negative trait due to its hindering effect on one's productivity often associated with depression, low self-esteem, guilt, and inadequacy, it can also be considered a wise response to certain demands that could present risky or negative outcomes or require waiting for new information to arrive.
Why do we procrastinate?
When I was reading the book “Do It Today”, the author Darius Foroux, he explains that this is a notion of escapism that people tend to have from doing tasks that are rather tedious and monotonous. In today’s day and age, where the era of the Internet is at its peak, people seek Instant gratification like, “Lemme just watch this 1 video, just 5 mins Of Instagram scrolling and 1 episode of Dexter” ….Sounds familiar? If you look deep down, this is how it actually starts and at last, it augments and fumes into a vicious cycle. A cycle that becomes strenuous to breakthrough. You might also be thinking that self-control is what is required. But in my opinion, you require self-awareness more than control.
If you are not aware of what is the root cause of why we procrastinate, then it becomes extremely difficult to even combat this habit once and for all.
How does Procrastination affect us?
Tell me if this sounds relatable. You wake up one morning and have prepared a smashing to-do list. You know for a fact, that today is gonna be a great day and you’re pumped up to get commenced. Out of nowhere, you get a phone call. This call can be that of an acquaintance. You think that you’ll shut that call in another 5 minutes and before you even know it, an hour had already passed in the twinkling of an eye.
Once the call has ended, you look at the time and your to-do list and you’ve just realized that an hour of deep work has just passed. This in turn instigates you to speed up and finish the work smarter, than truly enjoying it. We end up multi-tasking and get absolutely nothing done. We end up doing the work in a hurry and closer to a deadline and do a shoddy job of it. We put off the job so often that when we finally get around to it, we have lost the will to actually see it through.
Now I know, for a fact that you feel like “Hey, this sounds just like me!” I am able to relate to you in this account because I was just like you.
But hold on. Don’t feel guilty and don’t beat yourself up. It’s time to dive into the next section.
5 PRACTICAL TIPS TO BEAT PROCRASTINATION
“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.” ― Bruce Lee
1. Start with some LOVE - What I mean to say by love here is, Love denotes the work that we truly enjoy doing. I am sure you know by now that, a happy start is what leads to a happy ending. Likewise, start with something that you love. In my case, I love to write blogs. So, what I do, is I make sure that I start writing and while I am writing, I am automatically transferred to the flow state of mind, away from my comfort zone.
This is precisely where your brain needs to be programmed in order to get the work done. Once you complete that enjoyable task, your system is ready to tackle an important task that you’ve been putting off for a while.
2. Disconnect from the Internet – Let’s face it, we already have so many distractions around us. The truth is, if we observe, more than humans, it’s the virtual reality that keeps on hitting us and sort of pushes us to the extreme of making us glued to devices. The Internet is truly no exception.
One pro tip is in case you are bound to do something that requires your utmost concentration, make sure that you turn your devices to be on airplane mode or more so leave the device in a room that is far from your reach. Personally, whenever I am writing a blog post, I make sure that I lock my room and switch off all electronic devices completely so that I don’t lose my focus.
3. Inculcation of systems in daily routines – I learned this from the same author that I had mentioned at the beginning of this post. If you want to beat procrastination, you need is a system for doing work. A lot of people shy away from routines, systems, and frameworks because they want to have “freedom”. Trust me, freedom is your enemy. The fact is that, if you want to get things done, you need rules. I stress a lot on this is because this where you need to bring in the act of self-awareness. You have to be aware of what and how exactly the work needs to be done. Some of the examples of systems are
· Self-imposed deadlines.
· Accountability systems (commitment with friends, or a coach).
· Working/studying in intervals.
· Exercising 30 minutes a day.
· A healthy diet.
· And most importantly: Internal motivation.
If you combine the right productivity tactics, you have a productivity system. The deadlines create urgency, accountability will create responsibility, working in intervals improves your focus, exercising will give you more energy, so does a healthy diet, and eliminating distractions will take away the temptations. Procrastination will be something of your past.
4. Schedule and Unschedule - I know this sounds complicated, but, hear me out! I often hear people saying: “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I keep procrastinating”. That’s not a surprise to me. Most people don’t know what they do with their time, and therefore, their life. If you don’t know where your time goes, you don’t know yourself. And if you don’t know yourself, you can never stop procrastination or improve your productivity.
So, a simple way in which how you can do this, is, take your Google calendar or a pen and paper (If you’re into physical planning). Mark out everything that you would like to do. I mean every minute graphic detail. Even the smallest tasks that you have scheduled, need to be recorded. Once that is done, identify the essential and the non-essential tasks. Analyze where exactly where your time is getting wasted. The next step is eliminating the time wasters. It’s as simple as that. Once you have done all these steps, finally start scheduling your time properly.
5. Adept mental and physical health - “To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise, we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”— Buddha.
You can set goals in your life. You can create systems. You can even live without goals at all. But here’s the thing: If you don’t have the energy to make those things happen, nothing will happen. It’s about living a conscious life. A healthy body equates to a happy and healthy life. There is proof that good health eliminates the convention of procrastination. A simple 45-minute time block dedicated extensively to exercise can do wonders and that is what will keep you active throughout.
Guilty as charged, I am still working on this and I am pushing myself hard to make sure that my physical and mental well-being are not compromised amidst a busy lifestyle.
So that’s it, guys! Remember that overcoming procrastination starts with a few simple steps and relies more on systems and routines than willpower.
Focus your energy on doing a bit of this every single day and you’d observe how you crack the procrastination habit in the bud within a few weeks.