How to Break the Cycle of Procrastination

It’s 2018 and everyone is obsessed with #newyearnewme.

But if you deceive yourself into believing that something as nominal as writing an 8 instead of a 7 is enough to blow the winds of change in your direction, you’ll be crying yourself to sleep until 2019.

Ok, that was a little dramatic…

My point is, tons of people (myself included) look to external sources to change their lives instead of analyzing their shortcomings to incrementally improve themselves. ‘New me’ just doesn’t happen overnight.

So I’m here, looking at 2017 Jenn’s biggest problems, and procrastination tops the list! In the fall of last year I fell into an enormous rut…like, a Mariana’s Trench sized rut where just getting out of bed felt like a Herculean effort.

I hit that working from home breaking point and staring at the same 4 walls everyday started to make me sick to my stomach. Loneliness became my new normal.

Needless to say, getting my task list complete by the end of the day was impossible, and a lot of things got pushed WAAAYYY off.

But some days I was able to turn my attitude around.

I’ve thought a lot about the things that made the difference for me on those days, and I’ve already been busy applying them to my 2018.

Sometimes with success, and sometimes not so much…it’s baby steps!

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

Identify Your Kryptonite

We all have something: Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, Snapchat…

And that thing is just a black hole!

No matter how strong your belief that your can ‘just take a quick peek’ is, you will soon turn into a slack-jawed zombie who doesn’t know if it’s night or day.

For me, it’s YouTube. There is just such an insane variety of topics and all of it is tempting to me, even when it’s completely inane.

By acknowledging my addiction, I think I strip it of (at least a little) power. Knowing I can’t control myself I either completely avoid it during the workday or set an alarm to ensure that I stay within a certain amount of time.

It isn’t perfect yet, but I’m working on it!

Notice When You’re Being the Grasshopper, Become the Ant

I think we’ve all heard the fable of the grasshopper and the ant right?

If not  long fable short, there’s this ant that goes around collecting food for the winter while this grasshopper just dicks around all summer.

In most versions the grasshopper dies while the ant gets to be all smug about his hard work.

In other versions, the ant takes pity on him and shares his food, but I personally think that becomes more about how to ride on someone else’s coattails…no matter how much you go on about how he learned his lesson.

But I digress.

You can apply this to your own life by recognizing when you’re procrastinating, and rather than worrying about totally switching gears and getting everything done in a day, do everything you can to set yourself up for success tomorrow.

Lay your clothes out, make your bed, do the dishes, make some food, write a task list for tomorrow.

Do all of the things you can do while still being a little distracted (watching YouTube, listening to podcasts, etc.). That way, you can feel like you’re indulging you lazy self while improving how things will go tomorrow.

Building up your procrastination resistance slowly will limit the anxiety that comes with trying to be suddenly perfect. This probably isn’t where you thought I was going with this whole analogy, but it is, so there.

Visually Code Your Suckage

I am a master of writing lists, but I’m not always a master of following through on those lists.

To quickly visualize which/how many tasks I am pushing off each day, I draw a big squiggle through tasks I didn’t complete and a straight line through tasks I do complete.

I’m sure that just leaving these tasks unchecked would work for most people, but since I write my entire week on a single page, I find it too distracting when I can still read the items from a previous day.

However you need to code it and wherever you need to put it to keep it front of mind, keep track of how many tasks you’re pushing off, how many times you have moved a specific item, and how many tasks you complete.

This is great info to go off of!

Maybe you’ll realize you’re not doing enough during the day, maybe you’ll realize you need to start the day with a task you’ve pushed off 5 times, or maybe you’ll realize you’re overfilling your plate. Either way, it’s helpful.

Be Realistic

In general, people are terrible at estimating how long it takes to do things.

If you find yourself writing to-do lists that are 20 or 30 items long, there’s a good chance that you’re expecting too much of yourself.

Seeing a never ending list leads to feeling overwhelmed. Feeling overwhelmed leads to avoidance. Avoidance = procrastination.

Try under-scheduling yourself for a few days and time how long everything takes. Once you have a better idea of how long you take to do something, you’ll be able to write realistic daily task lists that you can complete without a problem.

Or, you could focus on prioritizing. Write a star next to the top three things you need to get done today, and/or write due dates next to each item so you know what needs to be don now and what can wait.

Find What Gets You in the Mood

Yeah, I get that this heading sounds creepy, but bear with me.

Once I put my on my excessively large headphones and start listening to the sweet sounds of Soul and Motown oldies, I’m completely in the mood to crush my to-do list!

Figure out what pumps you up to get work done, and make that a part of your everyday ritual.

That’s it for today. Leave a comment and let me know what gets you in the mood to get work done!


Title photo by:  BRUNO CERVERA

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