Procrastination Hacks For A Better Today (And Tomorrow)

What do we want?!? … TO STOP PROCRASTINATING!

When do we want it?!? … ummmm… not right now, maybe later?

Procrastination makes the whole world dimmer. Sure, I momentarily avoided that thing I’m scared of, but where did that get me? It isn’t done, and now I feel bad about not doing it. I'm irritable, food doesn't taste as good, and life is just not what it could be.

The Hacks

For posterity, here are the tricks I know of to get the ball rolling. (Substitute in your own “things” to personalize it.)

  • Break a daunting task into ridiculously small parts. Just open the document. Just gather the ingredients. Just put on the running shoes. I tell myself I only need to do the next small part and that’s it, for real, no obligations past that.
  • Bundle a disliked task with a treat. Perhaps I only eat chips when I’m doing billing, or I only listen to the ska / rock steady channel on Pandora when I do kitchen work.
  • Offer a reward for completing a task. If I tidy the garage, it’s popsicle time. If I reach that personal milestone, I’m buying myself a board game.
  • Close my eyes, take a deep breath, and imagine a future where the task is completed and notice how that feels. Use that feeling to springboard into starting.
  • Give up completely. Wait… what? Seriously, sometimes it’s best to not beat myself up and just accept that the time is not right. Just don’t use this one too often.
  • Set a time for starting. At 2pm, I will make that phone call. At 4pm, I am taking the recycling to the (in)convenience center. 
  • Set a short time limit for focus. I’m not going to work on this for two hours, I’m just going to hyper-focus on it for the next 10 minutes.
  • Do a sprint. Find five things I need to do and spend 10 focused minutes on each, with 2-minute breaks in-between. Set a timer and stick to it. One hour, five balls now rolling.

The common theme is simple: find a way, any way, to get started. Beating procrastination is all about starting and starting again and starting again, over and over. Because life will get in the way and stop me. My own brain will stop me with diabolical rationalizations and shiny objects. So my higher self absolutely needs to use tricks to get started again. Different tricks work different times, so I try to keep them all in my mental toolkit for appropriate use. I need them often.

Bonus Hack

And, just as importantly, a MEGA trick to keep the ball rolling:

  • When a distracting idea/task comes up, write it down and immediately get back to the task at-hand. The new thing can almost definitely wait until later. Don’t get derailed. Don’t do “just one little thing.” Stay focused. Quickly clear the mental space by putting that new thing into text form so I can pick it up later, if needed.

If any of this speaks to you, know you are not alone. I encounter this almost every day, so we’re in this together. I fall down all the time. I just need to get back up every time and not berate myself.

Turn your good intentions into resolute action. Do your best, and stay tricky (for good).

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