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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Sibanda

Procrastinating ??

One of the most valuable things we have is time, yet it is often the one thing that we unconsciously jeopardise. Part of human nature is giving in to impulses and without a doubt, procrastination is an extremely common impulse.

If you're reading this and thinking that you're a procrastinator, don't stress - you have a habit of procrastinating - an unconscious one at that. Procrastinating isn't logical but rather the moment when the emotional part of your brain (limbic system) overtakes the rational (prefrontal cortex) allowing you to make a decision that feels good in the moment rather than the one you know is right. Because of this the common misconception it is that procrastination is a reflection of your time management. Of course it can affect your time management but it's a self management issue - managing our thoughts, feelings and actions.

Like any habit, you can simply decide to stop and mitigate it with a clear plan. Timothy Pychyl, author of Solving the Procrastination Puzzle, points out that, "procrastination is a habitual response to tasks or situations, and like all habits, it is an internalized non-conscious process. It is what we do without really thinking about it." Because it's not an intrinsic part of who we are but more what we do, we can break the cycle and do things differently.

1. Just Start

One of the easiest things you can do to beat procrastination is by just starting. It sounds way too easy but the idea of starting something is often ten times more daunting than the reality. We spend so much time contemplating that is gets worse and you find more and more excuses not to do it. This can be explained by The Zeigarnik Effect. The Zeigarnik Effect states that not completing a task creates mental tension, which stays at the forefront of your mind. The only thing that will ease this tension is to complete the task. Starting a project is usually the hardest part. If you can start focusing on a task for a few minutes, the brain's desire to complete it should then take over - your part is to not back out until this happens. Simply take the first step and the rest will follow.

2. Go Big

Mark Twain said, "If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first." One way to procrastinate less is to do the most difficult and / or important things first. For example, if your morning routine consists of doing an hours session at the gym and reading 10 pages of a book, start by going to the gym and get it out of the way. The more challenging the tasks are, the more energy and concentration we need to complete them so start with those that demand more from you.

3. Minimise your distractions

Unfortunately, many of thins we have around us serve as distractions when working with and aiming to complete a specific task. You might not give into the urge to scroll through Kevin Harts Instagram in the middle of a project but an efficient way to stop procrastinating is to minimise your distractions. Believe it or not, having your phone next to you even if you're not using it affects your performance and outcome 20% than if it were out of reach. Turning off notifications, disconnecting from wifi or downloading apps like Offtime and Freedom to minimise screen time can allow you to work without the distraction. Although there are many distractions outside of a phone, we're all guilty of scrolling at the wrong time and mitigating our screen time allows you to stay focused and be more productive.

4. Always have foresight

Although it's completely free, procrastinating can be quite expensive. The ability to put something off in the moment doesn't illustrate immediate consequences or we wouldn't do it but if you were to take a second and think of the future impact ignoring something right now, you'd be surprised what it will really cost you. The last thing you want to do is get to the end of the month and realise that project or electricity bill that you put off is due. A simple strategy to get things done and future pace each task before procrastinating will make it less likely for you to procrastinate. Ask yourself "What is the most valuable use of my time right now?"

5. Focus on doing

Avoiding something is easy but that doesn't get you anywhere. By committing to tasks and setting a personal standard to complete them, you build a pattern to proactively achieve your outcomes. Focus on doing - calendar in time, write down the tasks that you need to complete, prioritise the list and make a conscious effort to focus on getting it done. The Law of Forced Efficiency states that "there is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important thing." An achievable goal is to stay on top of your most critical tasks, establish self management and set your sights on completing your goal.

6. Reward great patterns.

That feeling you get when you accomplish something is hightened when you reward yourself for your success. Tony Robbins says that "by rewarding yourself in the moment, your brain elicits positive emotions, leading to the realisation that your efforts result in a positive reward. By doing this continuously, your brain will start to link pleasure to accomplishing the task or objective and move towards it in the future."

The moment you successfully put your phone down and commit to finishing writing a topic without distractions, you shift your patterned behaviour around the habit. Reward yourself for that and make sure you notice how good it feels. That being said, choose your rewards wisely. In the process of breaking the pattern when procrastinating, you can just as easily reverse your progress by rewarding yourself with the very thing you are avoiding. You might reward yourself with an almond croissant from your favourite cafe rather than 5 minutes scrolling on your phone. so that the next time you start a task and are tempted to FaceTime your best friend instead, you'll be reminded of the positive reward that comes with practising discipline and not procrastinating.


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Dec 06, 2021

Taking action is so powerful!


Dec 05, 2021

Crazy that even just having your phone next to you decreases focus by 20% !


jett hoste
jett hoste
Dec 04, 2021

Well written, very impactful!!

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