Everyone procrastinates sometimes. But what if procrastination has become your default setting — you’re putting off too many things? Procrastination can become a habit.
That said, procrastination isn’t completely evil. It’s worth acknowledging that it has its place.
Procrastination’s hidden payoff: stress relief
From an Inc. article on procrastination:
”What we are avoiding isn’t the task but rather the stress that we are associating with the task.”
Whether it’s something we need to do for work, a relationship, or our health, procrastination is basically a coping mechanism. In fact, I’ll go even further to label it as a survival mechanism.
So, don’t be too hard on yourself for the things you’re putting off. It’s OK to deal with stressful tasks later, when you can cope.
Let’s look at useful tricks for those times you know that you need to overcome procrastination.
1. Perform triage on your To do list
Do you add five tasks to your To Do list for each task you complete?
Sooner or later this makes a list so huge that we’re completely overwhelmed. After all, if you’ve only got 20 minutes, it’s a challenge to read the list and find a task you can do quickly.
Try the triage trick. Grab your To Do list, and:
- Delete every task you’ve been putting off for longer than a month. If you can’t delete the task because it must get done, delegate it.
- Assess your remaining tasks. If a task takes longer than 25 minutes, turn it into a project. A project comprises many tasks, so chunk the project down into 25-minute tasks, and schedule each of the tasks.
2. Use the 5-second rule until it becomes a habit
Author Mel Robbins wrote an excellent book for procrastinators called The 5 Second Rule.
The 5-second strategy is simple. As soon as it’s time to do something, do it immediately. The idea is that if you don’t start on the task immediately, you’ll talk yourself out of it.
This sounds stupidly simple, but it works. I used the 5-second strategy to stop myself hitting the Snooze button on my alarm every morning. It’s been three years since I broke the Snooze-button habit. Now I either wake up slightly before the alarm, or I get up instantly the alarm sounds.
3. Uncover your inner saboteur
Procrastination can be a sign of inner sabotage. It’s worth assessing whether you’re putting off doing something because you’re stressed, or just feel uncomfortable.
I love this quote from another Mel Robbins’ book, Stop Saying You’re Fine: The No-BS Guide to Getting What You Want:
You need to understand something that you’ve either forgotten, or no one ever taught you: What’s “uncomfortable” is good.
No one likes discomfort, but sometimes it’s necessary. It’s OK to say to yourself: I know I’ll hate every minute of this task — but I’ll do it anyway.
4. Create a “procrastination” list
What about those tasks you know MUST get done — but you can’t face them? Everyone has tasks like this.
Delegate these tasks if you can. If you can’t, add them to your “procrastination” list. This is a list of tasks you’ll do when you have the energy.
Here’s what I’ve found with my Procrastination list: I quickly do the tasks. Moreover, the process is painless, even for tasks I dread. I’ve no idea why this works. My theory is that there’s a reverse-psychology thing happening. 🙂
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