In the last couple of weeks, I’m not as motivated anymore to do all the things I have to, and I want to do. This led me to fall back into the habit of excessive procrastination.
A few days ago, I started to fight back. In this article, you can read about what helped me overcome my lack of motivation and stop procrastinating.
If you can’t bring yourself to work on the task you should be doing, and you feel this strong urge to check your email or Twitter feed, you can try doing nothing instead. For example, stare at a blank spot on the wall.
Although time spent doing nothing is not time well spent either, it is almost impossible to waste as much time doing nothing as on just checking Twitter.
After a minute or two of doing nothing, there is a good chance that the work you should be doing looks much more appealing.
If you are suffering from a very serious case of procrastination and just can’t bring yourself to do anything at all, define clearly what you want to achieve and make sure it is easily achievable within one working day.
You should only schedule as much work as you can do in half a day; allow yourself to stop working once you’ve done the work. Most of the time, that helps you get into the flow, and you’re motivated to work the second half of the day as well. If not, that’s fine, as long as you have achieved what you planned, you are allowed to be lazy for the rest of the day.
Do it SMART
The most demotivating thing for me is when it’s not clear what I have to do. That’s not to be confused with having nothing to do; quite the opposite. It’s a not seeing the wood for the trees kind of situation.
SMART goals are: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. The most critical factors to counteract procrastination are specific, achievable, and time-bound. If what you have to do is vague, far too much, and open-ended, you have the perfect mix for procrastination.
Make sure to first make your tasks SMART before starting to work on them. This is not always easy to do, and very often, you’ll find you can’t do it all by yourself. Get help if you don’t have the right skill set or knowledge to break down a particular task into specific and achievable pieces.
Although I know how I should deal with this situation on a theoretical level, this is still something I struggle with.
Do something useful
Doing something useful when you should be doing something else is a double-edged sword: On the one hand, cleaning up your desk when you should be working on your master’s thesis is a prime example of procrastination. But on the other hand, having a clean desk is still much better than spending half an hour, mindlessly browsing the web.
The most important thing is to stay away from activities that give you a quick dopamine rush. It’s not ideal when you clean your apartment, instead of doing what you should be doing, but it’s a lot better than checking social media.
Cleaning your room does not provide a quick and easy dopamine rush; it is not a pure waste of time, and most importantly, at some point, you can see that everything is tidy. Your social media feed never ends; there is always something new. That’s one reason why it’s so addictive and why it can be so bad for your productivity.
Do it longer
When we always opt for the quick dopamine rush instead of committing to one task or topic for a more extended period, we lose our ability to tackle more demanding tasks.
Read one or two interesting articles instead of skimming the headlines. Watch a 30+ minutes YouTube video instead of watching one short video after another. Choose meaningful interactions with particular people over dozens of instant messaging group chats and crowded social media feeds.
Wrapping it up
I’m still not where I want to be in terms of my ability to fight procrastination, but the things above somewhat helped. The number one goal when fighting the habit of procrastination is to avoid quick dopamine rushes: Don’t mindlessly browse social media.