Overcome procrastination

If “I’ll do it later” is a commonly uttered phrase, then you’re suffering from the worst productivity problems – procrastination. In order to overcome this debilitating disorder, procrastination must be tackled head on. There are several reasons why you might procrastinate, and the key to overcome these obstacles is to face them.

Emotional/Physical Energy Shortcoming
Let me clarify what this means to me: when I’m tired from a long day at work or school, I could easily go to bed when I get home, at 7pm rather than my typical bedtime of 11pm-12pm. However, if I do that, then my sleep schedule gets all messed up, and I’m usually off for a few days. However, even when I’m not physically tired, I also get emotionally tired. This usually happens when I’ve done a lot of energy-draining tasks such as trying to figure out a solution to a headache-worthy frustrating problem. In both cases, I feel like a sloth and am completely unmotivated to work.

When you have an energy deficiency, then you need to spend some time correcting it if you want to be productive. Take a short 15-30 minute nap (be sure to set an alarm!). Another option is to use a meditation track that helps you relax, as well as helps you wake up. The meditation route is my personal favorite, because if you’re just emotionally drained, you won’t waste your time trying to sleep. Afterwards, you will feel grounded and at peace, two qualities that will help you focus. These are short-term solutions, but to really kill this procrastination problem, you need to focus on the root of the problem

In order to avoid energy shortfalls, develop a self-energizing routine that will provide you energy throughout the day. Create a morning ritual that includes exercise and healthy, energy-rich food, such as fruit. I will write a whole article on the subject of developing a morning ritual sometime soon, and I’ll link it here. For the meantime, google ‘morning ritual’ to get an idea of what I mean.

Overwhelming Tasks
There are two ways to overcome overwhelming tasks. However, you must first understand that overwhelming tasks are almost always blown way out of proportion. I’ve found that after I’ve completed a task that I would consider overwhelming, I am always shocked at how much easier the task was than what I was imagining it to be.

The first way to really begin tackling an overwhelming task is to do as Nike says, and Just Do It! By starting on a task, you automatically diminish the total effort required to complete it. For example, if you have a 40 page paper that you have to write for one of your classes, then by writing your first page, you only have 39 pages left. Dedicate a portion of each day (half an hour is a good start) to focus on writing your paper. In no time at all, your task will no longer seem quite so overwhelming.

Along these same lines, you should break your task into smaller chunks. Continuing with the paper example, break writing your introduction into one task, researching into another, and so on. By saying to yourself, “I need to do the introduction”, instead of saying “I need to write my paper,” you diminish the overwhelming power of the task.

Sometimes I mean to do something productive, but I end up spending the time I set aside for something else. If you have distracting family members or roommates, you need to communicate that you have to have an uninterrupted period in which they will not disturb you. Lock yourself in your office and put your iPod on to something that won’t distract you (I use the Liquid Mind station on the Pandora app).

If you’re using a computer, turn off the internet.

Also, if you haven’t read it yet, create a productive workspace.

Lack of Focus
When you have a task, but you’re not quite sure how to get it done, so you procrastinate, you need to develop focus for that task. Lets say that you need to get a new job, but you’re not sure what to do. Logically, you can rationalize that you need to do some specific tasks: write a resume, submit that resume to employers, and go for interviews. However, you’re not quite sure where you should get started. Should you search for potential employers first so you can write a focused resume? Should you write a generic resume first? Where can you find employers? and so on……

By not having a specific focus, you’re much more likely to say “I’ll figure it out later.” The key to solving this problem is to create a specific task list. If you don’t know what you should do first, either spend a few minutes researching which one to do, or just jump into one of them. Often by attempting to complete a task, you will find specific things that you need to do in order to complete it from a different task. Perhaps by trying to write a resume, you find that you’re not quite sure what employers are looking for, so you begin to find potential employers to determine what they’re looking for.

When I study for a class, sometimes I spend way too much time on tasks that are not very important, such as reading all of the examples in the text, instead of focusing on productive tasks. This is a form of procrastination. A great way to overcome this is to do what I call skim-throughs. This doesn’t just apply to reading, but it’s intuitively understood when it comes to reading. For example, for that paper you had to write, create an outline. Or if you’re trying to write the introduction, instead of writing sentences, write a free-flow of thoughts that come into your mind. This overcomes mental blocks when writing, to allow you to fully figure out the best way to make your paper flow, and create a logical structure to your paper, without worrying about specific words or grammar.

These are just a few of the blocks that you may have in overcoming procrastination. This bad habit is definitely one of the hardest to overcome, but it is well worth it. Procrastination is a key block to personal development. Think about it, how many times have you said to yourself I’ll start exercising later or I’ll start eating better later or I’ll start doing XYZ later? This procrastination problem may be difficult to overcome, but I guarantee, it’s well worth it.

– Neal

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