Procrastination is a trap that is easy to fall into. Plus, it’s as simple as being assigned a task that you simply don’t want to do.
You’ll end up knocking easier things off your list, without daring touch the harder objectives on your to-do list. When you look back at these tasks that you skipped over, you can’t help but feel embarrassed at your procrastination.
However, the main problem is that each and every one of us is programmed to procrastinate. Most of us regularly only perform tasks that promise reward, then procrastinating the rest of the tasks at hand that offers rewards down the line.
The reason we do this is because it’s simpler for our brains to focus on definitive things, rather than subjective things. Thus, making short-term goals easier to manage than long-term ones.
The best way to avoid procrastination altogether is to better balance yourself. For every two small tasks, accomplish one large task.
Additionally, you can even put a reward system in place to create finishing basic tasks more fun.
Focus on the Benefits
Visualize Your Reward
Recent studies have shown that more people are likely to commit to something if they know their end result — their reward. This makes their goal seem more realistic, helping people get on the ball with accomplishing it.
Informing others on your goals offers pleasure to your brain on a social standard. Researchers have found that even appealing to complete strangers can offer enough reward to reduce procrastination.
However, this is also mainly because we don’t want to seem lazy to people we don’t know.
Consider the Consequences of Procrastination
Recent studies have shown that even after considering the possibilities of performing a task at hand, we rarely consider the consequences of not doing it.
Since this can lead to guilt, our brains often opt out of actually doing it, since we don’t want to feel bad about not doing what we’re supposed to.
To help reduce your procrastinating tendencies, it’s wise to consider both advantages and disadvantages of completing a task. This way, you can force yourself to complete it if the cons greatly outweigh the pros of not doing it in time.
Diminish the Costs of Procrastination
Determine the First Step
Sometimes, we may put off a task simply because of its size. Certain tasks can feel so overwhelming and daunting.
For example, many people want to learn a new language but are put off because of the sheer size of the task. Where will find the time to master an entirely new language?
The key is to figure out where to start. Break down your big tasks into smaller tasks and those tasks into baby tasks. This way, the tasks won’t feel quite as unmanageable.
If you want to learn a new language, figure out the best place to begin. Your first task may be to sign up for a continuing education class or watch a YouTube video about the language.
It does not matter what your first step is as long as you think you will be able to complete it easily.
Once you complete this first step, you will be even more motivated to take the next step and the one after that. Before you know it, your whole task will be complete!
Link Your First Step to a Reward
You can also diminish the cost of the task by associating it with a task you do enjoy. Try finding something about the task that you can look forward to.
If you don’t enjoy exercising, consider watching a guilty pleasure TV show while on the treadmill. This way, the pleasurable aspect of the whole working out experience will outweigh the overall cost of heading to the gym.
You could also try giving yourself a reward for completing a task or project. We will go into this in more detail below.
Knock Down Your Blocks
Often, we may find ourselves wanting to complete a task but somehow unable to take the first step. Try as we might, we still cannot get started.
If this is the case, it is crucial to ask yourself some questions to get to the root of the problem. This way, you can figure why this act is so unappealing to you and tear down this mental blockage.
If you are so inclined, you can speak with a therapist about this matter, although this is not strictly necessary.
Try asking yourself why the task is so difficult. Keep digging until you locate the blockage. Frequently, you will find that a keeping desire or commitment is keeping you from completing the task at hand.
Say you work from home and are trying to begin working earlier in the day but you are having no luck with this task. By asking yourself a couple of “why” questions, you may find that you have a desire to sleep in late that is equally as strong.
Once you find this type of conflict, it can be easier to deal with and overcome. This will reduce any blockage and help to motivate you to complete your task.
In the example above, the solution may be to go to bed earlier or push back your office hours and work later.
Most people move through live “on autopilot”, rarely stopping to ask why they’re doing what they’re doing. Instead of digging down deep to find what drives us, the majority of society today self medicates.
Prescription medication like Adderall and Xanax target the symptoms of procrastination in the short term, but do little to nothing to treat the root cause that holds us back.
Take the higher road. Rather than “stimulate” yourself into motivation, try natural alternative approaches like self-reflection and lifestyle changes.
Add Value To Your Task
Even after all of that, it can be hard to get motivated to take action. This is especially true when we perceive the task as not having much value to us or the task is just not pleasurable.
We can, however, increase the amount of value we put on it. Value is, to a certain degree, objective and self-constructed.
The study of the changeability of value is called psychophysics. Scientists who work in this area have a few tips on how people can add value to tasks and cut down on the procrastination.
Tasks become a lot more difficult to complete when you are tired and do not have a lot of energy.
Try taking on your most difficult task when you are the most alert. This time will depend on your personal preference and circadian rhythm.
Most people are the most alert during a four hour period just a few hours after they wake up. This period of alertness may be different for you, though.
Here are a few ways you can increase your energy:
- Get plenty of high quality sleep (7-8 hours per night)
- Drink a lot of water.
- Exercise regularly, ideally cardio, weights or yoga.
- Listen to ambient music to spark creativity.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Try a comprehensive nootropic stack like Qualia, which increases mental energy.
- De-clutter your life, as this clutter can exhaust your brain and keep you from doing the things that really matter
For moments of tiredness, consider splashing your face with cold water, taking a shower, or doing some quick cardio exercises.
Reward Your Hard Work
Above, we mentioned linking an award to the first step of the larger task. Not only does this minimize the cost of the action, but it can also motivate you to complete it.
Give yourself a treat once the entire task is completed. Couple your long term goals and interests with short-term pleasures.
Treat yourself to some ice cream once you finish filing your taxes. Watch an episode of your favorite TV show after you finish a workout.
Give it Meaning
Try linking the task that you are procrastinating to something that you care a lot about. If you believe the task is helping you to achieve a higher goal, you will be more motivated to complete it.
For example, you need to finish sending out invoices so you can get paid so you can buy the new computer you have been wanting. Or, you need to write your essay so you can get a good grade and graduate from college.
By associating your task with something that you really want, you can make it seem a whole lot more meaningful.
Love What You’re Doing
One of the best ways you can add value to your task is by focusing on doing what you love. Though you can’t always be passionate about everything that you have to do, you can try to do the things you enjoy as often as possible.
This certainly makes the work day a lot easier and less stressful. Consider finding a career that will make you happy.
With regular, non-work related tasks, you can still inject a bit of passion into them. Try changing your mindset, focusing on the positive, and finding one aspect of the task that you can really love.
Make the Task Harder
If the task you are putting off is menial and boring, consider making it more difficult so that it becomes more enjoyable.
The difficulty level should match your skill level. This is how you achieve what is known of as “flow.”
Turn your task into a game. Set timers for yourself and try to beat them.
Whenever you feel yourself becoming frustrated by your inability to complete tasks, remember to take it easy on yourself. Your brain just needs help focusing on the long term goals.
Try focusing on the benefits of your actions, minimizing the costs of your actions, and adding value to the task at hand. If you do these three things, you will be less stressed and much happier.
Plus, your long to-do list will be grateful!