As someone who works two full time jobs, one as a high school English teacher (summers, too), and a business owner, plus maintaining a household, I sincerely don’t have much time for procrastination. Of course, there are days when I don’t want to do anything except crawl on my couch with my Netflix, my popcorn, and my self-pity, but I absolutely cannot allow that to control me or I would forever be in a black hole.
The funny thing about that black hole of procrastination is that my experience has taught me it isn’t actually laziness which makes someone procrastinate; in fact, laziness is probably the furthest thing from the truth. Most procrastinators are also silently obsessing over their deadline. So what makes a procrastinator wait until the last minute? It’s anxiety: fear of not finishing, and a doubt for how to begin. The task just appears to be too daunting.
The first strategy to beating the procrastination blues and gaining some motivation is to work backwards from your deadline. Recognize how much time you have been allotted to complete the task, and with a backwards design, figure out your action plan.
Creating an Action Plan is a second strategy. You need to break down the large task into smaller, manageable tasks. Every large project has smaller parts which brings it together as a whole. The second step should be identifying those smaller parts. You can do this by means of a to-do list and a calendar.
For example, if you have a deadline for huge work project or written assignment, the first step in your action plan is identifying your topic. After the topic has been identified, research needs to be completed, from which you can decide on your thesis, or your angle. Then you need to discern research into useful information, divide up the main points, create an outline, start writing, revise, edit, complete!
An action plan can be applied to almost any daunting task. Let’s say you want to begin an exercise regimen, but you’ve been a couch potato for years. It’s literally all about taking the first step. Before you can jog a 5K, you need to walk, and before you do that, you need to build up stamina. Try walking for 1 mile, or half a mile. As each week progresses, try adding another .5 mile. Once you’re comfortable walking a full 5K, start by running as much as you can, calculate it, then try beating it every week.
A third strategy is by way of achievement and rewarding yourself. As you continue to complete each part of your action plan, give yourself a reward – maybe a relaxing bubble bath, or a gift for yourself – something you will not allow yourself to have until you’ve completed that next step. Keeping track of your progress is an ideal way to maintain your focus. You can use an app, a journal, calling a friend, anything that will hold you accountable.
There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. Sometimes the task is just too much for one person to bear, and sometimes you need advice from a person with expertise. It’s perfectly fine to ask people for assistance; it’s not passing-the-buck if you are contributing, also. Delegating tasks to people can be appropriate if it’s a project-type of environment, and this will often ease everyone’s stress levels.
Visualize yourself completing the task. In psychology, visualization is a tool used for patients to practice their behavior in certain situations to help ease anxiety. You can make the task become tangible by visualizing the completion by mind, or by means of creating a vision board. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by how messy your house is and you just keep procrastinating cleaning it, you can create a vision board with magazine clippings of a spotless house – a modern twist would be creating a Pinterest board for where you want to see yourself.
As you work towards completing any goal, you must remember that you have the ability to make it happen. Anything worth its weight takes hard work, persistence, diligence, and a level of fortitude. As a human, you absolutely have all of these qualities; you just need to modify the task to make it work for you.
I have to give credit to one of my amazing students, Emma, who wrote an incredible blog post about her experience with procrastination. Her story drove me to write this post with the hopes that it could help people. Do you have any tips for tackling the procrastination jungle?