5 tips for overcoming procrastination

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I wrote recently about the benefits of procrastination (yes there are some. Don’t believe me? Read here). And I promised to share some of the helpful tips I’ve come across for overcoming procrastination (when it’s not so beneficial, that is). Well, you won’t be disappointed.

But before I divulge, purely to build the suspense (and not at all because I’ve started questioning this particular challenge on my list...), I’ve been reflecting recently. Reflecting on why we so desperately want to overcome such a natural disposition. And in fact why we are so desperate to find the magical solution to so many of the traits that plain and simple - make us human.

One of the things I’ve discovered through my exploration with mindfulness is that short-term suffering (from a cold, for example) is a reminder that we are but human. We all suffer and, actually, experiences like these can provide us with an opportunity to reflect on this common thread that we share. And it can also be a good test of simply accepting. I wonder whether procrastination can actually provide us with the same opportunities?

Or perhaps I’m just procrastinating.

Well before I become too distracted to complete this particularly challenging challenge, let me share these tips…

They come from a very inspiring talk by Caroline Webb, author of ‘How to have a good day’ - you can catch up on it here. And they’re all based around the concept that we procrastinate when a task requires us to put effort in now for a benefit in the future. The tips Caroline shares therefore, aim to make the current effort feel smaller and the future benefit feel bigger or more real:

1. Think about how good it will feel once you’ve got the job done. This pretty obvious visualisation exercise can be pretty motivating for smaller tasks. But I often forget how powerful it is. If I can just remind myself that the effort will be worth it, sometimes that’s enough to make myself power through. What about for bigger tasks though?

2. Pre-commit to getting in done. This can be really persuasive. Making a commitment to complete the task (especially if it’s a commitment you make publicly), means you’re much more likely to actually go through with it. Now this is one I’d like to talk a lot more about another time, as it’s exactly what what by when is. A pre-commitment which I’ve made social to ensure I actually do it… And it’s working, right?!

3. Add short-term rewards to bridge the gap between the current effort and that future benefit. When I’m at work my short-term rewards tend to be of the indulgent sort… something sweet if I manage to get some good quality work out in the next couple of hours. A little treat which makes your efforts feel acknowledged.

4. Reduce the size of the initial first step. I find this particularly helpful when it comes to writing blog pieces - I often have ideas for what I want to write but actually getting on with it is another story. If I get my ideas out as bullet points as a first step though, the rest is sometimes surprisingly easy. Again this is about feeling a sense of reward, but this time by breaking the task up into smaller steps which you can tick off.

5. Link the task up with something you do like. Again this is one I rely on to get blog posts written. I’ll set myself up in a local cafe, order a coffee (and often a sweet treat which, if I can resist, I’ll use as above) and happily tap away at my keyboard. Hanging out in coffee shops is one of my favourite past times, so tying my blog writing to this makes things a lot more enjoyable.

Yes, I’m currently sat in a coffee shop.

How do you make the effort you’re putting in feel smaller and the future reward feel bigger?


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