“I should really start working on that presentation, but… my room is such a mess. I’ll just tidy up a little before I start. But oh look, my wardrobe really needs to be re-organised. I’ll just pop on some Netflix while I clear it out and colour code it…”
Five hours later, you’ve watched the entire new season of Younger and still haven’t started that project. Sound familiar? Chances are, you’re a procrastinator. But don’t worry, you’re far from alone.
In a time where we all have so many different things demanding our attention, it can be difficult not to put off those tasks we know are going to be difficult, time-consuming or—let’s face it—just not fun.
That said, procrastination is the biggest killer of productivity. So, the sooner you break your procrastination habit for good, the sooner you can start living your best, most efficient life. Read on for 5 tried-and-tested hacks to stop procrastinating, once and for all!
Delayed gratification can be an extremely powerful tool for chronic procrastinators—and this is what the Pomodoro technique is all about. It involves monotasking (working on just one task at a time with no distractions) in 25-minute intervals, followed by timed breaks. You can use an app like Pomodone as your timer. What you’ll likely find is that once that clock starts ticking, you’ll actually want to get started on that task. And because you know you’ll get a chance to do all the procrastinating (aka. aimlessly checking social media) you want after your 25 minutes is up, it actually makes you less likely to do so during your designated work time.
Which brings us to our next point. Instead of scrolling aimlessly through your Instagram feed on your timed breaks, why not use it as an opportunity to reward yourself with something that makes you feel good? This could be making yourself a cup of tea, going for a brief walk or listening to your favourite song. If you build up those positive reward associations, it’ll make you more likely to actually get started on that task next time.
Often, those tasks we can’t bring ourselves to start aren’t actually as difficult as we think. In fact, once we do finally get around to doing them, we wonder why we didn’t get them out of the way earlier! This is where the ‘2-minute’ rule comes in. Developed by entrepreneur James Clear, this works in two different ways.
Firstly, there’s the rule that if it takes less than 2 minutes to complete, you do it immediately. This could be something like packing the dishwasher or replying to that email. As soon as it crosses your mind or pops up on your to-do list, you smash it out. The two minute rule also works for bigger goals. If you’ve been wanting to start your own business but have been putting it off, you’d dedicate just two minutes per day to working on a business plan. Or if you want to get back into a fitness regime, you’d commit to exercising for just two minutes per day. Usually, once you get started you’ll find you want to keep going for much longer.
Sometimes, those tasks we procrastinate over are actually big and time-consuming. This can be daunting, as we don’t know where to start. So, we end up doing, well… nothing. But the thing is, you don’t have to start and finish it all in one day. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day! By breaking it up into smaller, more manageable tasks, it feels so much more achievable and you actually make progress a lot more quickly.
You could even use the 2-minute rule here. Say you’ve been wanting to start your own blog, you could say ‘On Monday, I’m going to check if my domain name is available, on Tuesday, I’m going to buy that domain…’ and so forth.
Another useful strategy to stop procrastinating over big goals (for example, writing a book) is to have ‘untouchable’ days once a week or month. Created by author, entrepreneur and public speaker Neil Parischa, this involves blocking out an entire day of solid, distraction-free work on just one thing. There’s no wifi, no appointments, no emails and definitely no phones. The idea is to plan your untouchable days enough in advance that you can get away with a whole day of not responding to anyone. You can learn more about untouchable days here.