Are you someone who gets caught up in procrastination? Then you find yourself multi-tasking, stressed, anxious and frazzled? Chelsea Pottenger’s procrastination checklist will help keep you focused.
By Chelsea Pottenger
Here are 10 techniques I use to overcome procrastination and avoid the stress, anxiety and poor performance that stem from completing things at the very last minute [or not at all].
1. Ask the One Key Question
What’s the most important thing I can get done today? Every morning, return to your diary or journal to identify your most important task. It’s usually the elephant on the list and the one people tend to avoid the most. Do it first no matter what.
According to neuroscientist Dr Molly Crockett, research shows that pre-commitment works better than willpower alone when people are trying to resist temptation. If you want an effective way of making inaction look even less appealing: publicly declare that you’re going to do it.
3. Have an Accountability Partner
Another highly effective way of staying committed to your task or goal is having an accountability partner. For example, let’s say you want to go to the gym three times a week. You’re much more likely to go if you know you’re meeting someone there.
Why not engage a friend or work colleague when trying to achieve a professional goal? Try asking someone who cares about you to do the task with you, or at least check in with you to keep you on track. Make sure the person is willing to have the difficult conversation if you are not moving in the right direction.
4. Get a Good ‘Why’
If you are struggling to begin a task, spend a few minutes thinking more deeply about exactly why you need to do it.
Research shows that when you find personal meaning behind something, it’s easier to tap into your intrinsic motivation, which will give you a sense of purpose to achieve it.
5. Make a List and Break Down the Goal
This isn’t just your to-do list! This is a list of every step you need to take to achieve your Most Important Task [MIT].
Many people get overwhelmed by the enormity of a project or anxious about the outcome. If this is the case, breaking down the overarching goal with smaller bite-sized tasks will help.
Next, put a date and time next to each item so there is a deadline and accountability to help achieve the goal. Estimate how long you think it will take you to complete the task and then double the time so you don’t fall into the cognitive trap of time bias, which can make you give up more easily.
Once you start ticking off these smaller, more manageable tasks, it will increase your self-belief that you can achieve the larger goal!
“Recognise when procrastination starts to creep in. If you notice thought patterns like I don’t feel like doing this now, or I’ll get to this later, then you need to recognise that you are about to procrastinate.”
6. Reward Yourself Along the Way
Your brain is motivated by rewards. It’s constantly striving for more pleasure and less pain. Therefore, finding ways to reward yourself along the way will greatly help you achieve your goals.
For example, whenever I would submit an assignment at university, I rewarded myself with a takeaway dinner.
7. Minimise Distractions
Turn off your emails, shut down your phone and stay laser-focused on the task at hand. Distractions will constantly pop up during the day. Try to honour the 90-minute flow state of work and stay committed to your MIT.
8. Minimise Multi-tasking
Many of us fall into the trap of ‘busyness’ and therefore multi-task ourselves into inefficiency. This is when we also make more mistakes. Take the time to land one plane first and get the job done.
9. Take a Break
Sometimes we feel burnt out, stressed or anxious. If you can’t progress with your to-do list and find it hard to stay on point with your goal, it’s time to take either a short or long break if possible.
Focus on self-care, nutrition, sleep, exercise, meditation, rest and enjoyable leisure activities. These self-care breaks will actually refuel your productivity and help you make up for lost time.
10. Practise Mindfulness
Recognise when procrastination starts to creep in. If you notice thought patterns like I don’t feel like doing this now, or I’ll get to this later, then you need to recognise that you are about to procrastinate.
Try to resist the urge and instead acknowledge it as just a thought and return your attention back to the task for at least a few more minutes. It’s inevitable that the urge to procrastinate will pop up from time to time.
By becoming cognisant of the reasons why you procrastinate, and consciously overcoming these tendencies with the tools above, you may find it easier to keep your eyes on the prize and get started on those important [or stressful] tasks.
Text from The Mindful High Performer by Chelsea Pottenger. Murdoch Books RRP $32.99.