How to Stop Procrastinating

How to Stop Procrastinating

Have you ever sat down at your desk to get work done, only to find yourself staring at your phone or computer screen for two hours, completely distracted by some other entertainment? Have you ever been unable to even bring yourself to sit at the desk to get work done, instead dreading the thought of work as an awful time of pain and suffering? Procrastination can come in several forms, usually as outside sources of distraction, but the greatest hindrance to yourself and your work ethic can come in the form of the mindset you adopt. There are several strategies you can implement starting today that will make it easier to ease in to your work, stay on task longer, and finish up what you need to do faster.

The first and easiest step you can take to avoid the pitfalls of procrastination is to simply reduce the number of tasks you have to focus on at one time. Very often you may find yourself with a laundry list of tasks you need to accomplish, and that list can quickly overwhelm you with the sheer amount of goals you need to accomplish. Instead of lining up every single thing you need to get done in your head, do your best to pick out two or three of the most pressing concerns, and focus on those only. As soon as you complete those, you can move on to the next tasks in your docket. The more systematically you move through your list, the faster you will complete it, and you will not feel stuck in an overwhelming rut that leads to procrastination.

Once you have your small collection of tasks decided upon, your next step should be to define specific goals you want accomplished for each task. Making your activities goal-oriented can more easily set them up for accomplishment, as you will be more likely to strive to complete them if you have several, smaller goals you can zero in on. An easy way to develop this line of attack is to carefully define the steps of the projects you are working on. Designate the First Step, Second Step, Third Step and so on, until you have mapped out the entire project. For example, if you had to write a research paper, instead of attempting to write the entire paper in one foul swoop, focus on completing the introduction, then one body paragraph, then another body paragraph, until you have completed the whole paper. You can very easily psych yourself out by considering a task in its entirety, but by dividing it into much smaller, more manageable tasks, you can set yourself up for a long period of productivity.

Another simple step that can rescue you from the trap of procrastination is defining deadlines for the tasks you need to complete. This can be one major deadline for the entire task, but ultimately such a mindset can still lead to procrastination followed by a rushed crunch time of cramming. A more effective strategy is to look at the smaller goals you have set for yourself within the overall task, and define deadlines for those specific goals. Going back to the essay example, if you wanted to at least start the research paper, you could say to yourself, “I will have at least five sentences done of the introduction by the end of the next half hour.” Not only is this goal highly achievable, but once you cruise through it you may even find yourself willing to write much more. This sense of accomplishment will propel you further in your work, instead of beating yourself up because you procrastinated and got less work done than you had hoped for.

Getting started can be an issue all on its own, though. To increase your chances of starting a project, try to determine how much you could get done in five minutes. This may not seem like a lot of time, but that is the whole point: the amount of work you want to initiate needs to seem easily doable, so that by the time you complete whatever you have set out to complete you will probably keep on working. Do not overwork yourself however; the most efficient working patterns tend to be cycles of rigorous work followed by brief periods of rest. This allows you to recuperate and refuel mentally before diving back in to work. Aim to keep up the cycle for at least an hour, and hopefully by that time you will feel as accomplished as possible.

Another helpful way to keep you on task is to add a work partner to your routine. A work partner is someone who can encourage you in your work, either by working side-by-side with you or by prompting you to keep productive. A work partner should be someone less than or equally as busy as you, who is likely to be consistent with the encouragement they offer you. Easy ways to encourage you can be to make bets with your work partner. Let them know about specific goals you want to accomplish, and then make a “bet” with them that you will achieve those goals. The work partner should hold you to your word, and hopefully push you closer towards them.

While all of these strategies can be immensely helpful in promoting productivity and reducing procrastination, the ultimate inhibitor or encouragement to your work ethic is yourself. The level of distraction you choose to expose yourself to will determine how much work you are able to accomplish. This distraction can come in the form of your phone, or your computer, or the friends you constantly hang out with. Putting yourself in the right mindset to work without interruption is half the battle; the other half is actually removing the distracting influences from your life. Do not allow those influences of procrastination dominion in your work space. The sooner you conquer and minimize those, the sooner you will set yourself on the path of ultimate productivity.

Recommended Book: How to Stop Procrastinating: A Simple Guide to Mastering Difficult Tasks and Breaking the Procrastination Habit

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