Nine ways to fight procrastination
September 6 is World Fight Procrastination Day – yes, it’s a thing!
Procrastination can hold many of us back, whether we’re putting off mundane tasks, reaching for those health goals, or delaying things due to perfectionist tendencies. And September 6 the day we’re encouraged to reflect on and make changes to those habits.
Most of us procrastinate – some more than others. When it’s only done a little bit it can work for people.
“It can help us think things through and be prepared,” says psychologist Marny Lishman.
“Procrastination could also give you the chance to find the value in it, or alternatively you can find it’s not something you value or find meaningful at all.”
For the most part, though, procrastination is something to fight. “In the long-term, avoiding things doesn’t work: it just builds fear,” Lishman explains.
Why do we procrastinate?
Let’s be clear: procrastination doesn’t equal laziness, and it can happen for a few reasons.
The first reason is values-based. “When we procrastinate, we’re valuing what we’re doing now rather than valuing what we need to be doing,” says Lishman.
“We end up avoiding the thing we don’t value and gain pleasure from what we want to do instead.”
Perfectionists can be procrastinators too, putting things off for fear of them being less than perfect. “Perfectionists often won’t try things if they don’t think they’ll do it well,” says Lishman
And sometimes it’s because a task is mind numbingly boring: you need to write a report or do your budget and you can think of a million things you’d rather be doing. According to Lishman, “We’re wired to move towards pleasure and avoid pain, so if you perceive a task to be boring then you might go and do something else that’s instantly gratifying instead.”
The irony is that procrastinating doesn’t avoid the pain at all. Putting something off actually causes more pain, because the task becomes a cloud hanging over your head until it’s done.
How to stop procrastinating
- Start now! (Why wait until Fight Procrastination Day? Fight it now rather than putting it off.)
- Notice that you do it. “If you’re aware that you’re a procrastinator then you can start doing something about it,” says Lishman.
- Completing a task can be a pleasure in itself, so remind yourself of that joy and push through the pain to get to the pleasure of ticking it off your list.
- Find some patterns. “Look at what areas of your life you procrastinate in – it might be specific to work or a certain friend,” Lishman says, and from there you can find the things that might need to change.
- Break down big jobs. Giving yourself one small task at a time can be less overwhelming than tackling a huge job.
- Eat the frog first. “Get the hardest thing over and done with at the start of the day so you can get on with more enjoyable things,” suggests Lishman.
- Reward yourself. A little bit of bribery can go a long way – if you get that task done then you can do something you enjoy, for example.
- Have a change of scenery. “If you’re doing something unpleasurable, do it somewhere pleasurable,” says Lishman – think a café, or working in your comfy bed.
- Be around non-procrastinators. “There’s that saying, you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with, so if you’re around people who are doers and achievers they’ll be accountability buddies,” Lishman says.
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