Overcoming Procrastination: Doing and Progressing (Part II of II)
Last Thursday, we began discussing the root causes of procrastination. You can read more about it, here. I listed what I considered the primary causes of procrastination. They are:
- lack of motivation
To recap briefly, I encouraged those trying to overcome procrastination or tendencies to procrastinate to do four things; the most important of which was to isolate the roots of your dilatoriness. Then, I listed some tips for dealing with procrastination originating from overwhelm or confusion, including making written to-do lists, starting each list with one high-priority task, and seeking information and support.
Today, I want to reinforce the necessity of thinking seriously about why you are procrastinating, and provide some tips for addressing the last three causes of procrastination: boredom, lack of motivation, and distraction.
Coping with boredom, lack of motivation, and distraction
These particular causes of procrastination are common among students writing for a mandatory course or among professionals obliged to complete reports and documents regarding the mundane aspects of their work. Why? Because, frequently, the tasks are not undertaken by the individual himself, but assigned according to someone (or something) else’s interests.
1) Establish a purpose.
It is difficult to pick a route if you haven’t yet determined a destination. Many people are not creative enough when thinking about their “destination.” More often than not, if your sole purpose in an endeavour is simply to finish it, you will succeed, but miserably. Remember those midnight sessions writing drafts of your dissertation, hours before it was due? Yes, the drafts were completed, but under great stress. Wanting to finish a task isn’t enough to stave off procrastination. Be creative with your goals. Try to establish a broader purpose that you are passionate about and fit the task at hand into your plan for progressing toward that goal.
2) Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
This tip is closely related to dealing with overhelm. Often, if you have gotten yourself into a huge task and have not allotted enough time to complete it in smaller bite-sized chunks, the overwhelm and/or lack of progress can result in boredom. A huge task can also induce a sense of inferiority that leads to lack of motivation. To prevent stagnation, boredom, and sureness-sucking lack of motivation, work in small chunks over a longer amount of time. The sense of accomplishment that will come from this habit will kill the dullness and incompetence you may have felt otherwise.
3) Break up unpleasant, dull tasks with interesting, pleasant ones.
This may be seem obvious because it is so simple; however, many people are gluttons for punishment and continually create situations where they immerse themselves in unpleasant circumstances without taking ownership for their ability to improve their situation. If you are sick of doing something (inevitably, at some point or another, we all will be), take a break and do something refreshing. A short diversion is worth more than the time it costs. Rewards for achievements foster productivity. Incorporate these activities into your written lists during your organization process.
4) Find/create an ideal environment.
Distractions arise when your environment is imperfect for your work. If distractions are a real issue for you and organizing your tasks does not relieve the impulse to procrastinate, it is vital that you take a look around and find out what is blocking your productivity. Distractions can range from background noise to a stiff chair, from a cluttered desk to Facebook. Do what you need to do in order to avoid these elements. Many of us are distracted by the services and activities on the Internet. (“I’ll watch just one more cat video.” Yeah, right.) Develop the discipline to work in a space without Internet connectivity or build idle Internet browsing into your schedule (see tip three).
5) Just start.
Like jumping into a cold lake, the anticipation and initial dive into a project are the most difficult and unpleasant. Once you start, you acclimate and the process becomes tolerable, sometimes even enjoyable. Once you get over the first “hump,” accomplishment, inspiration and confidence have room to motivate your work.
These suggestions are aimed at addressing some of the primary sources of anxiety and discomfort that lead to dilatory habits. There are various tips and tricks for dealing with procrastination, which can vary greatly according to a persons personal needs. While all of these tips may not fit your particular situation, I am hopeful that starting at step one—determining the root of your procrastination—will give you all the direction you need for finding the ideal solution for you.
How do you cope with boredom, lack of motivation, and distraction?
Overcoming Procrastination: Planning and Organization (Part I of II)
Are you procrastinating? Is there an essay or a blog post you just can’t seem to get done? We could suggest:
“Don’t put off until tomorrow what can be done today.”
Though, it won’t likely help. Why not? Professionals, students, educators, writers, and so on have all heard this advice, and we all feel compelled to follow it, but—let’s be frank— as with anything, it’s not so simple. We don’t procrastinate for the sake of procrastination or laziness. There are emotional and psychological barriers that manifest behaviorally as “procrastination,” and it’s important to understand these before trying to overcome procrastination.
It may be useful for you to think for a few minutes about why you are postponing a given task. Often times, the cause of your procrastination differs according to the task. What are the top reasons for procrastination? Generally, they are:
- lack of motivation
When I have to write, for example, procrastination normally comes from confusion or overwhelm. When I have to do the dishes, it comes from boredom. It’s important to understand the enemy before it can be defeated. Isolate the root(s) of your procrastination.
To start, we’ll address methods of dealing with overwhelm and confusion. In later posts, we’ll deal with boredom, lack of motivation, and distraction.
Coping with overwhelm and confusion
1. Make written to-do lists.
To-do lists are a tried and true way of getting your bearings and avoiding overwhelm. They also help you organize your thoughts and can avoid confusion. It’s ideal to make a new list at the end of each day to prepare for the next day. Keep in mind, however, this tip won’t help much if you over-plan or set actionable tasks that cannot be completed in less than a half an hour. If a task takes longer than 30 minutes, break it up into smaller tasks. Make lists, but make them of simple, bite-sized tasks.
2. Start each list (and day) with one important task.
Overwhelm often comes from not being sure how to manage all the steps of a larger task. The antidote? Proactivity. Accomplishing something toward your goal is a great way to empower yourself to take on the next step in the task or to free up your energies for other tasks throughout the day. For this reason, it is helpful to choose one task or group of tasks each day that you should complete in order to feel productive. Do these tasks first.
3. Seek information and support.
When we are overwhelmed or confused by how to move forward with a task, it can come from feeling inadequately prepared for taking on the task. If this is true for you, work in some time (and tasks on your list) for seeking guidance. For example, if you are confused about an essay or writing task for school, a good place to seek guidance is from your professor, your advisor, or from a writing center tutor.
While it does take time to plan and organize for productivity, it will pay for itself over the life of your project or goal. These steps can prevent the crippling effects of anxiety and stress that accompany overwhelm and confusion. The peace of mind you’ll experience will free up your mental energy for thinking, focus, and creativity. The best of all reasons to deal with your procrastination is, of course, that you may even begin to enjoy your work!
How do you cope with confusion and overwhelm?
Part II of this series is scheduled for Thursday, 30 August 2012.