Do the excuses “I’ll do it tomorrow,” “it’s not that important,” and “I don’t have enough information to start” sound familiar to you? If yes, you’re potentially a procrastinator; someone who isn’t intimidated enough by deadlines to actually delay working on principal tasks, or even trivial ones like washing the dishes, till the very last minute. And sometimes a minute after that. Or the one after that? Surely the quintessential path to avert success, which, in other words, means the road to failure.
And notwithstanding all the features procrastination comes with – lying all day in bed, binging, and everyone’s guiltiest pleasure: Netflix and chill – it’s still a productivity slayer, as it sabotages people suffering from the “till next day” disorder, by justifying to them perpetual delays.
Other symptoms of suffering from chronic procrastination: deliberately searching for distractions within hand or sight (the walls of your room become the Walls of Ston while studying) which causes difficulties in concentration and self-control.
However, the silver linings of nigh on every issue, challenge, or dilemma are that they can be conquered with hard work and determination. And to help procrastinators redeem the feeling of satisfaction accomplished tasks bestow upon us, we share this intriguing 5-step plan.
Start even if you don’t finish
Starting work on a task can be the most difficult part, but psychology suggests if you go ahead and bite the bullet, your brain would actually harass and pester you to finish what you started. This is called the Zeigarnik effect, a psychological phenomenon introduced to us by psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik who noticed that waiters in restaurants seemed to only remember yet unpaid orders, i.e. incomplete tasks.
Kenneth McGraw and colleagues went back to Zeigarnik’s work years later, and carried on another test on the aforementioned effect, as they asked participants to work on a tricky puzzle, but before even starting, they were interrupted and told the test was over. McGraw noticed how 90% of the participants continued working on the puzzle afterwards.
Point being: once you get over the hump of starting, you’re more likely to finish. Our advice would be, write down a to-do list and start as many tasks as you can.
Work on smaller tasks
Big tasks tend to intimidate us, so try to break down each major task or target, to smaller, simpler ones. For instance, instead of stressing yourself about preparing for a graduation project, target the introductory part at first.
Structuring a big task is also crucial because people frequently look at the big picture, but when getting down to actually working on the task, we encounter the more-difficult-than-expected steps, and start hitting breaks.
Hence, breaking down big tasks into manageable chunks not only eases the stress, but also gives an insight into potential complications.
Go easy on yourself
Even if you’re aware of your procrastination, be nice to yourself. Research suggests that people who show compassion towards their own previous mistakes, are more likely to avoid them in the future. This refers to slacking as well. As procrastinators who take it easy after delaying work have the trait of going back to them.
Get yourself a solid why
If you don’t have clear solid motives, or at least ulterior ones, for why you need to get a certain work done, you’re most likely to procrastinate. Psychology suggests digging deeper to find a personal motive or meaning in the assigned task.
Promise yourself a nice reward after finishing work on a task, and in the case of long-term tasks, try to make these rewards more immediate, as they tend to work as motives. This strategy is often referred to as “temptation bundling,” which basically means attaching a long-term task, with an immediate reward.