Taking Care Of Business! Useful Tips For Overcoming Chronic Procrastination.
Recently a redditor asked users "What are some tips for overcoming chronic procrastination?" Here are some of the users' best submissions.
[Source can be found at the end of the article]
I make a list every morning of things I want to accomplish that day/week. When I check off something that's been completed, I feel like I have accomplished a goal and move on to the next thing. When I don't have a list, I feel like I don't have any direction and then I piss the day away. Also, if I accomplish everything on the list for the day, the next morning I wake up with a good outlook on the day because I was productive the previous day. And my lists aren't big things. Example of one of my lists...
1Clean out car
2Fold all the laundry
3Go to the gym
4Deep clean the bathroom
These are small things but they are also things that can be put off for later. Getting them done is a huge win for a procrastinator like myself.
Okay I'm actually a huge sufferer of this as most of my work is self-employed projects (games).
I always try to think about the future when trying to get out of procrastination or how much time I've wasted and what I could've already done with that time wasted and where I'd be now if I hadn't procrastinated.
Uninstall / get rid of all things that are distracting you. Just do it without thinking.
Something that I've always kept in the back of my head was to finish whatever is at your feet right now, and then start working your way outward from the hole.
If that didn't make sense, I'm saying get done whatever is important right now and then you'll be in the groove of things to get more stuff finished. The hardest part about doing stuff in general is literally getting started… once you get going, you'll remember how easy it was to just do it.
And when you finally get back on track, stay on top of it. You know you can do it, it's just the matter of actually DOING IT. Your comfort zone is an awesome place, but just remember that nothing will ever get done there.
One big tip I've realized over the years is to just tell yourself you're going to focus for 10 minutes. Get in as much work as you can, uninterrupted, for 10 minutes. If you feel like stopping then, great. Take a half hour, go for a walk, run to the store, watch a few videos or play a game. But more often than not you will be part way through something after 10 minutes of focus and you will want to continue.
But you have to be willing to stop at 10 minutes if you are getting distracted. The goal here is to get you started working, if you stop at 10 minutes then at least you got a bit done. But as I said more often than not you'll hit 10 minutes and be locked in and want to keep going. Starting is the hardest part.
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Turn off the power on your smartphone, and put your computer away until your work is done. If you need the computer for what you're doing, install a page blocker that you enable on your favorite procrastination websites until you're done with your work.
I'm still a huge procrastinator, so take this worth a grain of salt. But there have been a few things that have helped me get a lot better.
1) I always feel like I have to do things in a certain order; if I don't do step A, I can't start on step B. Sometimes I'll consciously make myself do things out of order so I don't waste time waiting for conditions to be perfect, since they likely never will be anyway.
2) Turn off your brain and just start. I have a huge tendency to make excuses for why I can wait till later, so I can't let myself think until it's done. Usually, if I set a goal and tell myself I can do something fun after I get to a certain point, I'm more likely to work towards it.
3) Work somewhere that people can watch you. If I'm in a coffee shop, or my family is in the room, I want to be seen as a hard worker so I'll try harder.
Take a cold shower in the morning. Dont start warm and go to cold. START IT ICE COLD AND JUMP IN AND STAND IN IT. You'll be much better off if you do it. To explain, your mindset for the day will be different if you accomplish this one thing every morning. Why? Because its uncomfortable but youre doing it anyway for your own good. Its easy and a great kick starter.
Break down every task into bite size pieces, and put them all in an ordered list. Check off each item as it is completed. Feels great checking things off, and it helps you visualize a path towards co oketion for super large projects.
My procrastination stems from doing the wrong thing. In art class, I would avoid starting to the last minute because I thought as soon as I put a mark down, I've got rid of so many possibilities I could have done. All I did to fix it was by randomly putting the mark down. Usually the stress would disappear after that.
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Do 30 minutes of studying (for example) with the promise of 30 minutes of whatever (Reddit, it's gonna be Reddit.)
Gradually decrease the procrastination period so 30 minutes studying, 25 minutes Reddit, 30 minutes studying 20 minutes Reddit. You can reduce it slowly, like one day then the next.
After a while you'll get into your studying/important task and you won't want to procrastinate. You'll have become productive and you won't even recognise your own face in the mirror.
Make a habit out of following the schedule without excuses. Your schedule can be anything from 45 min work followed by a 5-15 min break, which is the regular schedule commonly used in public schools and universities; down to 10 min work followed by 3 min breaks which is a schedule used in extreme cases like people with adult ADHS that are very easily distracted. Write it down, set timers and repeat it daily - and STICK WITH IT!
It doesn't even have to be a big task. Just 10 minutes of something, and do it. If after 10 minutes you feel like you want to keep going, awesome! If not, you did exactly what you set out to do. You made a goal and you completed it. Sometimes all it takes is baby steps to break the "lazy" habit.
Seriously. This applies to anyone who has struggled for years with procrastination.
Growing up I was an annoyingly typical underachiever. Smart, but didn't try, never lived up to my full potential, etc. I was frustrated with myself because I KNEW I was capable of so much more, but just never seemed to be able to DO IT.
And so, years later, after school, I finally went in to get evaluated. I was put on Adderall and it has literally changed my life. Things that used to be a struggle now seem straightforward. My productivity has skyrocketed. And, perhaps most importantly, even when I take breaks from the drug (as my doctor has suggested) a lot of the good habits and practices stay with me.
I do wonder what my life would have been like if I'd been diagnosed sooner, and I still don't know if I have "real" ADHD or if it's more a symptom of how I've lived my life up until now, but I do know that I'm glad I went in, and I wish more people knew how beneficial it could be.
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I've found that creating a schedule for tasks helps, and breaking it up in sections.
For example, when writing essays, write 1 page a day. You'll be days ahead by then end. Same with research for the essays, do it in sections. Gather all articles in one day, comb through them the next.
It makes it easier to do, as the tasks are then not too daunting.
Same goes for writing. I'm a writer. I try to write 2 pages a day. Some days I don't, and that's fine, but I try for 2.
1) Visualise the consequences of failure. (Visualising success seems to reduce motivation).
2) Tell yourself you are the product of your intentions and actions. 'I'm not smart / talented / good enough.' Sure, maybe not now, but you can get better. Growth mindset all the way.
3) Set goals. The pomodoro method is a good way of doing this. Just sit down (or stand up or whatever) and do that thing for 25 minutes.
4) mynoise.net if it's focused work or activity which requires blocking out external (and/or internal) distractions.
5) You know you got to do it, make that you know you want to do it. How? By enjoying doing it. How? By doing it well. How? You have to start. So start.
It basically involves using an egg timer to break down your work into intervals. So for example you set the egg timer for 25 minutes, working during this entire time. When the timer goes off you set it for 5-10 minutes, put down a checkmark on a piece of paper, and take a break, doing something you enjoy. Continue doing this until you reach 4 checkmarks on the paper. Then you can take a long break. Continue this until your work is complete!
It does not have to be a big goal. I worked nights for 7 years and it seemed many days were being wasted by doing nothing but work/sleep. Which was leading me into a cycle of general procrastination. I improved things by simply setting a goal a day to be done after work before going to bed. It could be simply 'Do the shopping' or "Clean a room".
Doing this gave some meaning to each day and a feeling of having achieved something.
Ok now I am off nights things are much easier to do after work like normal people but I still try to set goals each week to avoid procrastination.
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If you can find your 'office'. By this I mean a space where all you do is work, don't even take phone calls in there (unless it directly and only relates to your thesis). If you want to watch a YT video leave the room. I make it so I don't even get to look at my phone to see a FB message. With any luck you will begin to associate that space with working hard and not procrastinating.
I used to have terrible chronic procrastination, but here's how I've improved:
Have a set space for things don't do homework on your bed and don't play games at your desks, and make it so that you literally can't do it. This allows you to stop wanting to do other stuff besides your work.
GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK: seriously, you will work a lot more efficiently (and happily) if you let yourself take a 5 min breather every once in a while.
Make sure you control your breaks: don't take a 5 min break that turns into 20, this is the hardest, you have to force yourself to get back to work. Gets easier with practice.
Have a routine! Every day I do work at the same exact time. Helps me because then I know: when i'll be done with my work, and how much of it I have left to do.
Lastly, do all things that you could do to distract yourself before you do your work. For me, it means that I will clean, cook, shower, etc, before I do work. What used to happen is that I would work, then cook, then work more, then shower, and what would end up happening is I would get nothing done. Doing it all before keeps the restlessness away and lets me just have one thing on my mind.
Put yourself in situations where procrastinating has consequences. On the computer? Put the fan on high, lay there in your underwear without a blanket. You're going to get too cold if you stay too long. Or opposite, turn off the A/A so you get too hot and have to get up to go run errands.
One of the biggest reasons behind my procrastination is being tired. My "hack" is to drink a cup of coffee or eating a fruit, using it as a pick me up and just starting whatever I have to do. Oh and lists, that helps to organize and divide large tasks into smaller, more manageable ones.
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If you've ever heard of "gameifying" in regards to social media, you'll know exactly what I mean. It's basically how they get you to be so addicted to apps like Snapchat (streaks) and Reddit (karma + gold), for example. You get psychological rewards and feelings of accomplishments for activity, goals, and interaction. Basically, they turn shit that would otherwise be "meh" into a fun game. It's also the technology Fitbit uses to make exercising fun and addictive, so it can be used for good too!
Im no expert at gameifying stuff, so I don't know if I'm implementing the theory right, but how I psychologically reward my productivity is by turning every single tiny task into a checkbox. Every time you check off a task, it feels like a big accomplishment. It's this boost of happiness and positive feeling. Like you're one step closer to being done, it makes daunting tasks feel smaller.
Then, I physically reward myself at milestones. Most people do this, in a way. If I finish all my tasks earlier than my target, I get to spend an hour or two reading a book, reading the news, browsing Reddit, or I might get myself a Starbucks tea or coffee and just zone out. If I get everything done all week, I get to go out for ramen or a burrito or something. If I don't, sorry, it's home cooked boring lentil soup for me. It encourages you to crank through all the boring shit because you know there's a light at the end of the tunnel: zone-out time and treats. It gives you something personally fulfilling to work towards.
commit to the smallest unit of work possible. "i'll just write my name" "i'll read for 5 minutes and stop if i get bored" "i'll just try doing all the homework problems I can do off the top of my head and do the ones I need to figure out later" "i'll just open up the document on my computer". About 8 times out of 10, you go beyond the little limit you set yourself.
literally just do it. force the impulse to get up and walk over and pick up a paper. Even if you're walking over there like "wtf I don't know what the hell I'm doing, am I even really gonna do this?" You just start doing it and then suddenly it seems much less daunting than it did in your head when you were sitting on the couch thinking about it.
set yourself up a rewards system. "If I start 3 things today, eat ice cream". Makes that rewarding thing so much better too, because you feel like you earned it.
think logically. As someone else said, your mindset matters. Yes, you should change the attitude that you have no capability to willfully do things. But also, use internal dialogue such as "I already did this 3 times today, I'm not missing out if I stop and be productive" or "this is just 25 minutes of work and then I get to go back to being lazy if I want". Again, once you start doing things, your mindset will automatically change and you'll want to keep being productive. But if you don't, allow yourself to be lazy once you've satisfied your minimum goals!
Can't stress enough how important it is to actually allow yourself to be lazy or procrastinate sometimes when you're really feeling it. As long as you satisfy a minimum set goal, your body will tell you if it really wants rest.
When you're a kid most adults will tell you one thing or another is "cool" and "fun." Odds are you're too young to form any kind of opinion on the matter one way or another. You're a kid, right? You don't know what you're eating for breakfast. However, when you get older and form that larger worldview, you realize that yeah, maybe that one time when you were a kid actually wasn't fun.
These are those stories.