Procrastination has been preventing people from being productive since the first humans were roaming around in caves. You’re probably only reading this article because you’re putting off doing something right now! The good news is you can trick your brain into helping you move past procrastination with a few simple tips.
First, it’s important to understand what procrastination really is.
In the most basic terms, procrastination is basically a malfunction of the brain. When you know you have an important task to do that isn’t particularly enjoyable, such as making an important phone call or writing a school paper, your dislike of the task gives you low levels of anxiety.
This anxiety triggers a fight or flight reflex in your brain. Instead of just getting the unpleasant task done and over with, you instead make up reasons why it’s okay to put it off (the fight reflex) or simply avoid thinking about it (thanks to the flight reflex). The problem is, delaying the task only gives you more anxiety in the end. It becomes a bigger and bigger issue, and the bigger it is, the harder it is to force yourself to get it done.
So, how can you move past something that’s hardwired into your brain?
Simple: You trick your brain.
Create a reward for yourself when you get your task finished.
The reward can be as small as thinking “I can only get a cup of coffee after I make this phone call” or as big as “I can only buy this game I want after I finish my paper.” Make getting a reward an absolute fact in your mind, think about how much you really want that reward, and push through.
Make a list and break your task down into tiny steps.
Part of what makes things we don’t want to do feel so overwhelming is they seem impossibly huge!
But it doesn’t have to be that way. By making a list and breaking your task up into tiny steps, it makes it seem more doable. Even if you’re putting off something as small as an unpleasant phone call, it seriously helps if you make some notes. “1. Pick up the phone, 2. Dial number, 3. Explain why you are calling, 4. Have notes prepared…”
And, if you make a list for a bigger task, it makes it even easier to…
Start in the middle of your task whenever possible.
It can feel overwhelming to start at the beginning and do the task “properly”, but what really matters is that you start accomplishing something. If you have a paper to write, think of the easiest part to write and just start in the middle someplace. If you need to clean your house, pick the easiest part to tidy.
Give your brain a break by allowing yourself to procrastinate in a controlled manner.
Trying to absolutely force yourself to complete a task all at once can be disastrous. If you can’t focus and are absolutely miserable, give yourself five minutes to do something fun. Get up and stretch and get a drink, or pet your dog, or browse the internet–but make your break only five minutes long. Once your break is over, get back to the job you really need to get done.
You can even try working for five minutes, then taking a break for five minutes, so on and so forth. It might be slow going, but at least you’ll be chipping away. And usually once you gain some momentum in working on your task, it becomes easier to focus on.
Hopefully you see how you absolutely can beat procrastination. Sometimes it really is as simple as tricking yourself into productivity. Now close this article and chip away at your task! You’ll feel so much better afterwards.