How do I beat procrastination?
I was once among those people who would think for days or weeks about completing, nay, starting something that really needed to get done. This would lead to delays, incomplete work, missed payments, increasing waistline (yes, I procrastinated about starting workout and healthy diets too) and whatnot. Procrastination is the biggest enemy to productivity. It decreases not only the quantity of work done but the quality as well. Below is the list of things I did to overcome the habit of procrastination and reduce it to a great extent:
- Make a list of all that needs to be done: First and foremost, I made a list of everything that was on my plate, which meant everything that I wanted, needed, had to, must, should and all other verbs in between. The list, believe me, extended to 4 A4 size pages – both sides!!! This gave me jitters….. and I was certainly tempted to give up.
- Persevere: And I persevered. I had told myself that it was high time I came out of all the putting off things to the last-minute thing. What motivated me was the thought of how I will be appreciated for getting things done and of course of not being called a person who never does anything on time.
- Prioritize everything: Just making a list was not enough. I needed to know what to do first. So I first sorted it out into tasks that would take less than 15 minutes, up to 1 hour, up to half a day, up to 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, and so on. I really had one task that would take 5 years (that’s another story). Apart from this, I had learned somewhere about segregating the tasks into four quadrants like this. Now I knew what I had to do first – in case you haven’t noticed, it’s the first quadrant that says “Urgent and Important”. Then Urgent but not important and Important but not urgent. The tasks that were neither were left for the last minute.
- Set goals: Since I now had a list handy I could set goals for myself. As I had already sorted it out time-wise and Urgency/Importance-wise, I could set goals easily. I had read somewhere that accomplishing a small goal gives our mind the same kick as accomplishing a bigger goal. So I stuck to small goals only. When I saw that some goals were too big to be achieved in one go, I broke them up into smaller tasks. And then decided to complete each smaller task as one goal. Tasks that would take a long time were again broken into smaller time chunks. For example, studying a full topic would take about a week. So I broke it down to studying 5 pages a day. No less, no more either.
- Visualize before starting: Visualizing is an important aspect of accomplishing anything. Visualizing helped me to understand the steps I needed to take to achieve my goals as also the difficulties I could face and how to overcome them. I could understand the resources required – time, money, people – to achieve them. And when I had the step-by-step plan in my mind, there was very little chance of straying from the path, thus helping me attain the final outcome even in case I had broken down my goals into smaller ones.
- Pat your back and kick yourself, aka Rewards and punishments: I decided to keep a reward for every goal I achieved. When I saw that I was straying from the path, so to say, I would also punish myself. For example, if I finished studying and understanding the 5 pages, I would play one level of the game I really loved to play. But if that day I didn’t complete those 5 pages, I had to eat bitter gourd vegetable (which I really detest). That served as positive and negative motivation for me, respectively.
- Accountability: Even when I had the rewards and punishments set for me, there was a chance that I would just skip the punishment or reward myself even when the goal was unaccomplished (aka cheating). So I searched for an accountability buddy. Which meant we both will share our goals with each other and will keep pestering one another till we have reached it. We had full powers to reprimand the other and to change the reward or punishment as deemed fit.
- Don’t beat yourself up over some missed deadlines: Of course, I missed doing some tasks as planned. Sometimes due to another urgent task cropping up in between, due to family issues, due to health issues, any unavoidable social engagement, etc. I was unable to finish my tasks for the day. Instead of stressing over the missed goal, I let it go. I just did what came up, appreciate myself in some way other than the reward I had set for myself, and start afresh next day. If I had reprimanded myself over every missed goal, my mind might have started avoiding setting goals altogether. Keeping communication lines with my mind open was the key.
After a year, I am still procrastinating on some tasks. But all in all, I have improved my performance at work, have almost completed my post-graduation, improved my health (lost around 11 kgs and several inches), and now I get my work done more often than not. My credit score has improved a lot because I pay my bills on time. A lot has changed. And now I get appreciated more at work because they know that if I take up a task, it is going to get done – on time. Signing off now.