7 Super effective ways to break the habit of procrastination
Is there anything in life that you have been planning to do since long but have been putting off?
It could be anything as big as changing the job that sucks, relocating to your dream city, taking that vocational course for your next career move, starting that business you have been planning to start since long, etc.
It could be anything as small as writing that article, making that video or just cleaning your kitchen.
Procrastination is, in fact, an extremely common problem. Everyone procrastinates, at least occasionally.
Why do we procrastinate?
Scientific research suggests procrastination or intentional inactivity is actually caused due to underlying stress, anxiety, and fear.
Procrastination is a habit that is formed as a way to release stress or avoid some fear.
For example, if you want to leave your present job and start that business you have planning for a long time, you may be scared of things like, losing the security of monthly paycheques, what others will say, what if the business fails, etc.
So the mind finds comfort in procrastinating actions for the future and keeps tricking you with excuses.
"Oh, I will start when I get a good opportunity, or when the time is right, or when I am fully prepared, etc., etc."
This is how our brain is designed. Remember, its primary function is to protect you and help you survive. So, stepping out of the comfort zone and trying something new does not come naturally to humans and needs extra efforts.
Another possibility is that you are stressed about something, a debt, an illness, or some relationship problem.
Now you keep on thinking about it all day and get drained of all your energy in the process. When you sit for the real work you are already exhausted due to too much mental work. So, you take a break and procrastinate. So, procrastination becomes a way of stress relief. As the stress level increases the habit of procrastinating keeps getting stronger.
How to stop procrastinating and get started?
Below are a few ways to get rid of the habit of procrastination. My life changed completely after I started using them and, since then, I have been suggesting them to my friends and clients. I hope you find them useful. You may add your suggestions in the comment section at the end of the article:
1. Decide to do the task:
Begin with answering two simple questions to yourself:
- What am I losing by not taking the action?
- What would I gain by taking action?
Weigh the benefits of taking action against the loss due to not taking action. Focus on the benefits you will achieve when the work gets done. This will keep feeding your fuel and motivate you to take action. Once you decide that you want to do the task, give yourself a target date for its completion. This sets the goal achieving mechanism of your mind in action.
2. Seek buddy help:
Declare your goal to a peer, colleague, or a public group that you have decided to do a task. Research suggests declaring your goal in public increases the chances of getting it done by almost 15%. You can also seek help from a friend or colleague to keep monitoring and checking your progress periodically. When you are answerable to someone for the task you are doing, your chances of sticking to the job increases many folds.
3. Break down the big task into several mini tasks:
Many times people do not start because they don’t know where to start!
The whole task may appear huge and overwhelming. A better idea is to break down the bigger task into several smaller ones and start with whatever small task is possible at the moment.
For example, if you want to start your own business you can break down the task into:
- Awareness (what business and why),
- Research (SWOT, market size, latest trends, target audience, competition),
- Test Marketing,
- Strategies (marketing and sales, budgeting, etc).
Every small task may again be divided into smaller ones and then start with any of the feasible baby tasks. Remember, the ship can go to only one port at a time. So, don’t try to do everything at the same time. Do one thing and then another and so on.
4. Plan the actions and fix schedules:
Research on Peak Productivity suggests that highly productive people do not act on their to-do list, rather they act on their schedules. Make a written action plan for the task at hand and schedule a time for every action. Your work is simple after that, you just need to stick to your schedule.
5.Set a starting ritual:
Be aware of your emotions. If you are stressed and feel too tired to work, talk to yourself. You may find tapping techniques like EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) beneficial at this time. Take a few deep breaths, relax, and give yourself permission to work for just five minutes. Research says, after starting, 80% of people do not stop. The trick is in getting started.
6. Use positive affirmations:
The subconscious mind doesn’t understand the difference between truth and lies. So, if you keep repeating lies again and again, your subconscious will take it to be true. Repeat the affirmation “I get started and complete my work on time” several times a day. Better add one minute of visualization with it. See and feel yourself already having finished the task and have fun with the feeling.
7.Celebrate the milestones achieved:
Give yourself a treat every time you finish a task (or a subtask) - anything like a bar of chocolate or an outing or just 15 minutes of “me time” as a reward for completing the task. Need for appreciation and rewards are inherent to the human psyche. By treating yourself for the small success the adult in you is actually motivating the child in you to take action in the future too. This way, you can change your habit of postponing the actions to getting started.