Ah procrastination. Most of us struggle with it. We know we need to get going on a big, important task, but for some reason, we can’t seem to get into gear. Instead, we waste time checking email or social media. We tell ourselves we will start the workout program next week. We say there will be plenty of time to hang out with our spouse and kids later.
Procrastination is a killer of productivity. Ideally, we should be making consistent progress on our most important tasks, which move us in the direction of our values. But when we procrastinate, we aren’t moving forward at all. It’s like we’re jogging in place. Procrastination can also increase our stress level because our tasks remain unfinished. This increased stress can have a negative impact on our mental and physical health and well-being.
But how can we combat procrastination and get going on our most important tasks? Here are 3 ways to beat procrastination:
3 Ways to Beat Procrastination
- Break up your big task into small chunks. Sometimes we procrastinate on an important task because it seems too big. The task might be long-term, and it feels impossible that we can ever get it done. We might not see the daily “wins” we can mark off our checklist. For big tasks, one key is to break up your big task into smaller chunks. Focus on one small part of the task that you can finish TODAY. You don’t need to get the whole task completed, just finish chunk #1. I do something like this when I try to tackle a big writing project. I make a small goal for the day—perhaps to write one page in my book. If I get more done, great. But I know that I will write at least one page and check that task off my list.
- Pause and reflect. When you notice yourself starting to procrastinate, pause and reflect on what is going on inside of you? What are you thinking? What are you feeling? Do you notice any sensations in your body? What is painful about moving forward on your task? Could you survive that? Will you be okay? What is the worst thing that could happen from moving forward? What is the worst thing that could happen from not moving forward? Given this new learning about yourself, what would you like to do now?
- Create a work snowball. Sometimes we have a tendency to try to work on our most important project first thing in the morning. If this works for you, great. But if not, you might think about trying to create a work snowball. You begin your day working on a smaller, easier task that you are confident you can complete. Once you get some energy and momentum going, then you can switch over to your bigger task. A snowball is hard to get rolling at first, but once it gets going down the hill it rolls more easily. In a similar way, a big task can be hard to work on right off the bat, but it becomes easier once you get some energy and momentum going.
Discussion: What do you think about the 3 tips to beat procrastination? How have you worked to combat procrastination in your own life? If you notice yourself avoiding an important task today, walk through the 3 steps and see if you can get back on track.