How to Stop Procrastinating and Get Everything Done Without Wasting Your Precious Time
Is it difficult for you to do everything you have planned, are you missing exams, deadlines?
Sometimes, by the time you start the task, it’s already late – the stress is too high, and you can’t focus.
Regularly, you wake up in the morning and do remember your to-do list. Yet, instead of start working, you tend to do all the rest. You start from checking your emails.
Messaging and commenting under the post in the Facebook group. Also, you think about postponing things during the day.
Welcome to the club! You are procrastinating.
And procrastination is dangerous.
If you don’t stop procrastinating, you could fail at work. Your boss could fire you.
More than that, your procrastination is affecting your family members, including your kids.
Do you want to risk your life, destroy your kid’s life, feel embarrassed and stressed all the time?
Of course, not!
You can stop procrastinating and even use it for your benefit.
Here is how to stop it.
Let’s jump in.
1. Observe Yourself and Determine the Hierarchy
Observation is an essential skill. Especially when you want to find out the reason for your behaviour. It’s the first step of the scientific method.
Devote some time and observe your behaviour. You need to determine the hierarchy – in your mind, what is on the top of your to-do list and what is on the bottom. From all the things you have in your to-do list the one you are avoiding/delaying to do is the one on the bottom.
It’s the most difficult, unpleasant, boring, big or new task. Meaning it needs most of your effort (mental or physical) and most of your precious time.
What to do next to stop procrastinating?
2. USE procrastination to Get Things Done
The truth is, you can use procrastination to get more things done. Let’s take a look.
There is such a term as ‘productive procrastination’. The term was introduced first by the psychologist Piers Steel. Productive procrastination means that while avoiding a big task, you will do tasks which you typically put off.
Remember the to-do list?
You will do all the tasks from the hierarchy while avoiding the one which is on the bottom – the hardest one.
You are not alone, and it’s normal. Here is how to use this.
Trick your mind and get everything done!
Surprisingly, you will be motivated to do every task from your to-do list to avoid/delay the last difficult task.
TIP: You know what, do your to-do list. Yet, assign the last task to someone else. Yes! You can find someone who would love to do it, you can suggest doing something which is easy for you instead. Win-win situation. Little cooperation do not harm!
Let’s jump to number 3.
3. DO procrastinate!
Because studies on stress have shown that:
Most people are less effective under the intense stress
Most people are more effective under moderate stress
Usually, you have moderate stress several days just before the deadline.
So, don’t lose your precious time – do procrastinate, do something more important before.
TIP: Don’t start too late when the stress levels are so high you can’t finish it on time.
4. What to Do if the Task is Boring?
How to stop procrastinating when you have boring tasks on your to-do list? A task is boring if it’s very easy or not interesting for you. Unfortunately, very often we need to do boring tasks and sometimes spend much time on them too.
You can defeat the boredom!
Combine boring with fun or pleasant. Here is my example. When I was at secondary school I liked maths very much. But, because it was easy for me, it was boring to spend half an hour sitting and completing maths tasks.
So, I would combine maths with snacks – I would write with my right hand and eat sweet corn puffs with my left hand. You can combine boring easy tasks with puffs, seeds, crisps, fruits. Whatever is reinforcing for you, something you already love doing.
5. What to Do When the Task is Unpleasant or Difficult?
Some tasks are unpleasant. Even aversive. Examples are bathroom cleaning, diaper changing. It could be a task which contain some kind of intensive physical exercise.
How to encourage yourself here? Let’s take a look.
You need to do three things:
– Remove as much as a possible aversion
– Add as much pleasure as possible
– Add some importance to this task
Let’s start by removing aversion – put gloves first.
Congratulations – you are halfway through!
You can also remove all chemicals. In the case of bathroom cleaning of other home chores, use natural products instead.
Tasks could have another difficulty, which will make you less productive. Being unproductive is another reason for procrastination. Get some tools. Could be a sponge with handle and little brushes. You need to increase your effectiveness to decrease procrastination.
Now, it’s time to add something pleasant to the process.
Music, listen to your favourite singer. You will finish everything in no time.
What about adding importance?
Very often, when you have much mental work to do, you need rest. You can take rest from mental task and do a physical task.
Of course, the best ideas come while you are walking. But, sometimes, you can have new ideas even when you are doing chores. The brilliant ideas that don’t come to your mind when you are sitting in front of the computer.
Another way of adding importance to the boring or aversive tasks is to start thinking about them as an exercise which benefits your health. In particular, if you are trying to lose weight.
6. How to Deal with Academic Procrastination
It’s difficult to stop procrastinating as a student.
When I started studying psychology at the Panteion University in Athens, my greek was not so good. Of course, I couldn’t understand everything from the begging. I couldn’t be a good student as I used to be at my secondary school.
Yet, I didn’t want to fail. The problem here is that the goal is too big, and the resources are too low – the ultimate stress situation! What shall you do here?
I was stuck and needed some help!
Now, the best thing that comes to my mind is Richard Branson’s tweet:
”I am known around the Virgin Group as Dr Yes. As I usually answer yes to any exciting new ideas, then worry about the details later.”
For me, Richard Branson is an excellent example of a self-confident person. He knows that he can find a way even if the idea is new and nobody had done it before!
I was not like him when I started University.
Fortunately, help came very soon. It was my second semester when our Social Psychology professor talked to us about the study on learned helplessness among students and how to deal with this (the professor knew very well how we felt, I guess!).
Scientists in the study gave participants easy tasks first. The tasks they could complete themselves with little effort. After, researchers slowly increased the difficulty of the tasks.
Being able to complete the tasks increased the confidence of the participants. As a result, by using this approach, all tasks (difficult and easy) were accomplished.
”That’s it!’’, I thought, ‘’I know now what to do!’’.
I started studying with easy for me subjects, the ones I already knew, like statistics (maths). Some subjects were complicated. So, I had left them for the last year when my confidence was already very high.
The advice here is, relax. Don’t have big expectations from the begging. Start with something easy, interesting, something you already know. Build your confidence. Also, get help whenever you need it, especially from the beginning.
TIP: The biggest problem, though, is the stress during the exams. You can use different techniques to relax.
For example, a good way to relax and go to sleep is thinking of all the things and people in your life you are grateful for.
Yet, the best thing is not to get stressed during the exams in the first place. Here is the trick. Instead of spending less time with your friends during the exams, spend more time with them.
In particular, more exams you have, spend more time with your friends. Don’t do the opposite.
7. Would Better Sleep Help You to Stop Procrastination?
There is a new study from the University of Amsterdam. Wendelien van Eerde and her colleges conduct it. The research team demonstrated the connection between sleep quality and procrastination.
The poor quality of sleep is leading to more work procrastination the next day. Yet, not everyone was affected by the sleep quality. Only employees low in trait self-control did.
So if you are high in trait self-control, congratulations! You will procrastinate less regardless of your quality of sleep!
Take care and
Don’t waste your precious time!
Remember, when you do everything you have planned, you will FEEL GREAT at the end of the day!
(Photo by Carl Heyerdahl/Unsplash)