Motivation is like a bed sheet – some days you can really catch hold of it and spread it like a pro, on other days you can’t grab one measly corner of it, try as hard as you will. When it comes to work though, feeling de-motivated or rather, uninspired to well, work, is something that happens to 95% of us, at some time or the other. Procrastination, as explained by Dr. Travis Bradberry, the award-winning co-author of the bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, is actually fuelled by excuses, such as “I don’t know where to begin” or “I don’t think I can do it.”, “I don’t like it”, and others such.
Procrastination is a vicious circle
Do you recognize any of these excuses?
• If I sleep for 30 more minutes, I’ll have better energy to do that extra round of strength training at the gym.
• If I eat this cheese pizza now, I’ll be done with my cheat for the week, and control my portions more aggressively.
• If I take a walk/surf the internet now, I’ll have a clear mind to focus on the task when I get back to it.
If you do, you are creating something like a procrastination loop – you feel anxious or even guilty of putting off an important task, only to suffer from low physical and emotional energy to complete it when you finally get to it, which defeats the whole purpose. The worst part – you circle around with the same emotions, task after task, until procrastination becomes something of a major addiction.
How can you break the loop and turn procrastination on its head?
Here are three proven tips and tricks to help you make procrastination work for you, as opposed to against you, which is what productive procrastination is all about:
#1 Set shocking deadlines: Procrastinators are often good at over-estimating their ability to complete tasks, if deadlines are set significantly before the date of submission, with ample time to work on the task. A trick that works almost every time, even with serial procrastinators, is to set reminders to start work slightly after you were supposed to, so you have less time at hand, and the impending deadline stares you right in the face. The ‘feeling of urgency’ does the job. Better still, get someone else to set deadlines for you, as external deadlines get work done on time more often that those set by people on their own.
#2 Steer clear of catastrophizing: Do you make a big deal out of everything or think about every other task as ‘extremely hard work’? Thoughts focusing on ‘How tough, demanding, boring, or painful’ something can be are sure to stress you out, doing no good in the long run. Instead, thoughts such as ’How proud, satisfied, healthy, or happier’ you will be if you complete that dreaded task in time are sure to lead you on to the path of greater productivity.
#3 Weigh long-term, not short-term costs and benefits: We all know going to the gym/ saving money/working hard at business are for betterment of health and happiness, but our vision is often eclipsed by the short-term immediate rewards we get by choosing a date with friends/shopping /vacation over these long-term goals, whose benefits are obviously distant. Focusing on the ‘why’ of tasks that you put off can help you break the short-term mentality and look at the bigger picture instead.
More than time management, it is the emotion that counts when trying to break the procrastination loop. Be honest to yourself and ask this simple question – Is it better to wait for that perfect mood to start on a task or is it better to just take the first step and work your mood along the way? You’ll have your answer and excuses will be gone for a smarter, more productive you!