“Tomorrow: A mythical land where 99% of all human productivity, motivation and achievement is stored.”
We’ve all been there: you’re overwhelmed with a monumental to-do list and not sure where to begin. While incredibly common, procrastination is often more than just simple laziness. In fact, at the root of most procrastination is fear: fear of the unknown, fear of failure and fear of rejection. It’s the reason many people ignore concerning medical symptoms, put off applying for a new position or postpone difficult conversations.
So how do you stop procrastinating? It’s important to first examine the situation and consider how your personality affects why you put things off. For instance, some people simply work better under pressure. On the other hand, many people procrastinate out of fear, and that can be a problem. If your ability to get started on a task is spiraling out of control, these tips may help.
- Look for the forest in the trees. While it’s easy to put off the small things, remember that they can escalate. Look at the big picture and the long lasting impact of your decisions. This will motivate you to complete the task at hand. Perhaps you want to ask your boss for a raise, for instance, but you postpone the conversation out of fear that he won’t consent. Instead, consider the positive benefits of an increased salary. This will help you focus on the big-picture reward rather than the present risk.
- Start small. If your list is overwhelmingly large, focus on one item. You’ll be amazed at how completing one small task can motivate you to tackle the rest. Not sure where to begin? Pick the easiest one first. Completing that task will encourage you and empower you for the next one.
- Find an accountability partner. It can be helpful to share your procrastination struggles with others. Voicing your concerns not only helps decrease anxiety and provide much-needed perspective, but friends and colleagues can also help motivate you to get to work. Ask your partner to help you establish realistic deadlines and regularly check your progress.
- Eliminate distractions: If a task requires your undivided attention, work in an environment that is free from phones and other devices. For other tasks, such as cleaning the house, set a timer. Choose a specific amount of time to spend on a chore, such as folding laundry, and accomplish as much as you can before the timer goes off. It’s easier to work on a project that has an established end time.
- Incentivize yourself: Reward systems can be enormously helpful for encouraging progress. You might want to treat yourself to a nice dinner after completing an intense work project or purchase a new outfit at the conclusion of those workouts you’ve been avoiding. Regardless of the reward, it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate the effort that went into a job well done.
Make 2019 the year you finally stop procrastinating. Get started now!
David Lowenstein, Ph.D. is a psychologist and the clinical director of Lowenstein & Associates, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to providing therapeutic services to individuals and families, he offers training and consultation to numerous associations, schools and agencies around the country. Additionally, he is a frequent radio and TV guest and a resource and contributing writer for numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. Contact Dr. David Lowenstein at 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.