Procrastination is a huge issue for a lot of people. Working for myself for the past month has exposed my issues with it even though I’m doing what I love. I procrastinate. The day ends. I stress and feel guilty. I go to sleep. And then I do it all over again. There’s got to be a better way.
Here are some solutions I’m experimenting with to heal my habit:
- Find a procrastination partner: Identify the person at work or in your life who will randomly email, call, text, or stop by your desk occasionally and ask you “What are you procrastinating on?” or “What’s the one thing that would make your day wildly successful if you accomplished it today?” After you respond, their role is to combat all excuses and encourage you to start working on whatever your “one thing” is right then and there. Note: This doesn’t work if they start procrastinating with you.
- Make a distraction detector list: Write your distractions on a post-it or the wall in front of you so that you know when you’re being distracted. Some of mine are sorting stray paper, unwashed clothes, the refrigerator, cutting my nails, and Facebook. When you catch yourself about to do either, just stop and refocus on what you’re procrastinating on.
- Set something in motion: Create an early deadline by setting something in motion that involves another person. For example, if you have a project due in a month, set up a feedback session with your colleague or boss around the 2 week mark.
- Find something worse to procrastinate on: I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but if we find a few things to procrastinate on, we end up procrastinating on the thing we don’t want to do with the lesser of the two evils. For example, if you need to do your taxes and go to the DMV but you don’t want to do either, you’re more likely to get the lesser of the two evils done b having two things to procrastinate on than if you only had one thing to procrastinate on.
- Shorten the work day: Just like Parkinson’s Law, if we have 8 hours to do 4 hours of work, for some silly reason we tend to expand the work to fill the 8 hours. If you know you only get in a good 4-5 hours of real work everyday, don’t beat yourself up about the other 3+. Who made up the 8 hours work day anyway? Consciously excel during your peak hours and consciously rest during your non-peak time.You know how to look busy. After all, you’ve been procrastinating for years now.
At the root of procrastination is a fear of failure…when we put our best foot forward. We’re not afraid to fail when we know we only gave a lackluster effort. When we procrastinate, we give ourselves an escape route in case we fail. If we fail we can say “I waited to the last minute.” which really means “I didn’t give it my all.” which means “I could have done better if I really tried.” If we succeed we can say “I’m smart.”, “That was nothing.”, or “I think better when I procrastinate.” Procrastination is about quality of effort, not quantity of time.