Procrastination is familiar to most of us, some more than others. Procrastination is a habit and act of putting things off to a later date, even when it's a bit pressing and in need of our immediate attention. I used to be a professional at procrastinating. I turned it into such an anxious game or some kind of intense reality TV show. *Cue intense movie trailer voice* "With only 60 seconds left to submit her assignment to TurnItIn ..... How will she do it?! Tune in next week to find out!" I used to tell myself that I work better under pressure and that my quality of work is better when 8 hours of work is condensed into 2. This is actual shit I used to convince myself of to further feed my procrastination habits. And sure, sometimes I do work well under pressure (I used to work at Tim Horton's as a teenager, so if anyone knows what working at that place is like...you know what I mean), and yes, sometimes you can work smarter and not harder, but instead of actually getting to the root of my procrastination, I fed it hilariously articulate excuses instead to keep it going. My procrastination loved my excuses!
I want to admit, that to say that I am completely over my procrastination issues would be a bit of a lie, BUT, I have been able to get much better at it and I am way more productive and happy with my work habits now in comparison to just over a decade ago in my undergrad days. I started getting more curious as to why I am procrastinating and putting things off in the first place. Was it due to a lack of interest? Or a lack of motivation? Were my energy levels low? Did I have a fear of failing? Was I way too distracted? There were many questions I asked myself to get a better sense of why this was happening and where I could go from here. Procrastination is super common, so one of the first steps I recommend and encourage is to please not judge yourself or be too hard on yourself for it. There are several reasons as to why this might be going on for you and even just acknowledging it and having the awareness is an incredible first step! I've gathered some tips that I have used for myself over the years and I am happy to be able to write them all down and share them with you. I hope you enjoy and that they work well for you!
1. Break it Down
Take those big tasks and chunk it down into smaller ones. Having one big massive task can bring up a lot of fear, stress and anxiety, so take it slow and break it down into smaller, bite-sized pieces. Being able to take it one small step at a time will make you feel more successful and motivated. It's encouraging to be able to see things get crossed off your list! Also, don't be afraid to delegate tasks. If something can be simply delegated to someone else so that you can conquer pieces that require more of your time, delegate it away! Give someone the permission and the tools to be able to complete that piece so you can focus your attention on the tasks that really need you.
2. Set a Timeline
Create a schedule or a timeline of some kind so that you can stay on track of the tasks at hand. Write it down on a calendar or agenda so that it's there in front of you. You can even allot certain amounts of time to how much each task might take so you have a good idea of how much time to give yourself. I also encourage you to take healthy breaks and schedule those into your timeline. It's hard to be effective when you're hammering away at the same task for hours on end. It's flat out boring and a massive motivation reducer. So take a stretching break, read a book, get some fresh air or do whatever you enjoy so that you can come back to the task with a clear frame of mind.
3. Airplane Mode Your Distractions
Try to eliminate those distractions in the best way possible. For me, putting my phone on airplane mode can help with this. If I don't put on my airplane mode, shut my phone off, or give it to my cats to hide (kidding, I don't give it to them...they just take it and hide it themselves), I'll go on social media or watch funny videos for an unknown amount of time and get lost in a black hole. So do yourself a favour and try to eliminate all of the background noise, flashing lights and sounds from your phone and TV so that you can solely focus on what you need to at the time. In addition to this, it might mean that you go to a different room or place all together. Maybe try going to the library or a coffee shop where you won't be around family, your partner or roommates who might distract you. You can also set up a healthy boundary by just letting them know you're working on a task and you'll be happy to chat with them after you cross that task off your list.
4. Visualize the End Goal
Visualize what it will look and feel like to finish up that task you're working on. Notice how great it will feel to finish up that project, how you will feel accomplished and what it will look like when it's all completed. Focus on those good things and how they make you feel. Some people prefer focusing on the other side, such as the consequences of what not finishing this task on time might be. Like if you don't submit your assignment on time, you might receive a lower grade. Or not finishing that proposal for work might mean you lose a client. Whatever floats your boat on this one! If you do focus on the consequences and if they give you a kick in the butt and a sense of motivation, then do what you need to, but also try to focus on the positive feelings of finishing it up as well and see if it makes any changes for you!
5. Give Yourself a Pat on the Back
Reward yourself! Do something nice for yourself when you finish something. You're changing your habits and trying new things that are outside of your comfort zone, so be kind to yourself and give yourself a reward!
I hope this Procrastination 101 helps you as it does for me! If you have any other tips, I'd love to hear from you! What helps you when you're procrastinating? :)
You got this!
- Kaitlyn :)