Back in 1978 only 5 percent of Americans considered themselves procrastinators. By 2007 that number increased to over 26 percent. Whether or not we care to admit it, in today’s digital age there’s more distracting our attention than ever before, making procrastination a potential problem for everyone.
If you’re putting things off until mañana, here are eight tricks to help you get unstuck:
Just do it. Procrastinating on any project or to-do item only gets worse as time goes on. Simply starting a project lodges it in your memory as incomplete, so that you will remind yourself to finish it later. This is called the Zeigarnik Effect where “unfinished tasks get stuck in the memory until complete.” In one study, 90 percent of participants finished their assigned task even when they were told they could stop early.
Easy peasy. Where to begin? If you said, “At the beginning,” fine—but experts suggest starting with the part you can finish fastest or easiest, especially if you have a tendency to procrastinate. Rather than bite off the most challenging parts first, tackling fast and easy accomplishments can give a needed morale boost to see your projects through to the end.
Know thy excuses. Everyone has favorite “pet” excuses. Recognizing them is key to distinguishing procrastination from something that’s actually preventing progress, which will direct you to better solutions and save guilt over things outside your control.
What’s your why? If we don’t see any value in the process or outcome, we can’t care enough to stay motivated. Staying in constant tune with why you’re doing something—or who you’re doing it for—can help to bolster your resolve and keep the wind in your sails.
Location, location, location. Boredom is a motivation killer, so try changing your environment once in a while. Work from a coffee shop instead of your office, or take a weekend getaway to do strategic planning—the change of scenery will help you develop fresh ideas and motivation.
Artfully abstract. Be concrete with your projects, goals, and dreams. “I’d love to write a book about container gardening,” is an abstraction. “How should I open chapter one?” is concrete. Specific tasks will often feel like they complete themselves.
Memory lane. Procrastination can occasionally be more about remembering than avoidance, especially if you’ve already got a busy schedule. Write things down and keep a running to-do list of both long and short term goals.
Forgive, then fuhgeddaboutit. A recent study found that forgiving yourself for procrastinating can actually reduce future procrastination. Forgiveness allows you to move on and focus, without the burden of the past hindering progress.
Hope this helps and thanks for reading!