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How to Overcome Procrastination

The need to delay and avoid completing tasks is what we know as procrastination. It’s a common issue that we all encounter at some point, because it's hard to take action in the moment when the rewards seem far away. In contrast, the tasks that are luring us in provide instant gratification. In this article, we’ll look at some tips for breaking out of the procrastination cycle.

It’s easy to fall behind on our to-do list, lose motivation and struggle to get back on track. As a consequence, we can find ourselves avoiding the things we need to get done. Whether that be for work, study or our personal projects. Suddenly, organising your inbox, washing the dishes or watching a new Netflix series is the only thing on your mind. Anything to avoid having to tackle that to-do list which is starting to pile up. You can read more about why exactly we procrastinate here but we have some tips for beating procrastination. 

Clear Your Mind and To-Do List

Let go of the mounting to-do list. At least, temporarily. You will need it later. The constant thought of ‘I need to start that task’ or ‘I have so many things to complete, even starting that one means there’s ten more left’ can be incredibly off-putting. We get stuck in a cycle of avoidance as tasks build up. Instead, start fresh and write it down onto paper or document. Make a master-list, sectioned into work, study, personal or whatever categories are relevant to you. Already, this task has allowed you to think through what you’re going to do without having to do the tasks yet. You remove the pressure of going to your to-do list and having to pick something to-do immediately. Don’t just empty your mental to-dos but any thoughts or worries you have. For example, ‘write a 1500 essay’ might come with worries of ‘I don’t understand the essay question’. This can help later when you prioritise and organise these tasks further. 

Organise and Prioritise 

You can’t do everything at once. You need to organise things by importance or deadlines. This way, you know what needs your immediate attention but have still accounted for the less important tasks. Once you’ve identified those key tasks, break them down into smaller steps. You’re still not going to want to hop into a task that seems on-going like writing an essay or completing a project. Create sub-tasks that are quick to start and can help you build momentum, which we’ll discuss more later. By creating sub-tasks, you can utilise time management practises such as the pomodoro technique. Similarly, those less important tasks can be grouped together and tackled during a 25-minute pomodoro. You can track your progress and pomodoros using various digital tools, which can provide a sense of instant gratification and prevent procrastination. 

Build Momentum and Introduce Novelty 

Let’s face it, even when we know what we need to be doing or have a clear plan of action - it can still be hard to start. This is why building momentum is important. For example, if you wake up and scroll through your phone before getting out of bed, you might continue to feel unmotivated or sluggish throughout the day. However, if you first get up and go for a walk, you’re building some momentum and setting the tone for the day. Likewise, even in the middle of the day, if you hit a slump, doing something that clears your mind or gets you feeling proactive can make you want to continue that streak of ‘doing’. You can also build momentum for specific tasks by using the 10-minute rule. This rule helps you make a start without worrying about completing the whole task but once you’ve started, it’s likely you will enter a flow state. Alternatively, introducing some novelty, such as working in a new space or changing up your routine can reduce that need to procrastinate. It can also limit the amount of distractions you have luring you in.

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