Think about procrastinating this way. Your life has so much potential, the world is there for you to explore. It could be awesome, you could live to the fullest and enjoy every second. Unfortunately, you could not find the motivation to do the dishes or get out of bed.
This is not an issue that just arose in the 21st century. A Roman emperor almost 2000 years ago said the following.
“At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: ‘I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?'” – Marcus Aurelius
Starting the day by staying in bed, you finally get up either thinking it is too late to start something now or that this new Netflix show deserves the best of your morning. Maybe you think the tasks you have to complete are unnecessary and therefore convince yourself they do not really matter. Eventually, you build up a long list of little things that you constantly have on the back of your mind, and because it looks like there is such a lot to do, you decide to do nothing at all because it weighs you down.
Define what you have to do
The good thing is, you can reverse it. We have all been there. You need to work on it and solve the problem. Here is what can cause procrastination:
- Tasks not well-defined
- Tasks not critical
And that is it. Have you ever wondered how it was possible to do a one-month assignment in a week? Here is what happens when you are stressed and you know there is no way around doing something:
- The task becomes critical
- You define the critical steps to take
- You do these steps, in order
So, go ahead and write 3 tasks down. Choose the thing(s) you have to do right now and potentially one or two others. Your final to-do list for today does not contain more than 3 tasks, and each task should take no more than 15 minutes to act upon. For each of these tasks, ask yourself this: If that task is the only thing I achieve today, will today feel like a productive day? If not, replace it with another one.
Give shorter deadlines
When we get given too much time to do something, we tend to get lost in unnecessary stuff. Below is an example that should sound familiar.
“Sometime this week I’ll need to go food shopping.” – Anybody
During the next one or two days, you will think about the nice dishes you can make but will never make with what you get from the shop because you never write it down, therefore you will have to think about it again later – you are wasting your time already. What if this example was critical, to complete within the next hour. What would you do then? You would write down what you want in 2 minutes, go around the flat to check what you need in another 2 minutes, and in less than 10 minutes you would be at the shop with an exhaustive list of items to buy, buying just what you need to be back in time before an hour has passed.
Point is, we procrastinate because we have too much time to do something. In a way, not doing it right now is a good idea: why would you? The problem is that it leads us into a chaos in which our to-do list is massive, and there is no due date for any item. It looks like there is so much to do right now when only a few things have to be done right now. You do not have to write an essay, you have to write an introduction, work on finding the parts, read this then read that, etc. Do not make the tasks look bigger as if they were going to take ages – keep them simple, and easy to act upon.
Who do you want to be
The last problem with procrastinating is that it makes you feel guilty. You feel guilty and you feel guilty for feeling guilty instead of starting to do it. When you feel the urge to procrastinate, do not fight against it. Lean into it, be okay with it. Do not judge. Rather, ask yourself: “This is who I am. Is that the person I want to be?”.
Do not be hard on yourself, accept what you are about to do without judging in the slightest. It has happened before and it will happen again. To you, to the worst people and to the best people.
You are going to write tasks down that you need to do on one tiny bit of paper, meaning you will keep that list short. You will not judge yourself for being unwilling to start acting upon them but will ask yourself if your life is not worth more. You will give yourself tight deadlines to use stress to your advantage.
Now, act upon the first one. If you have to send an email, send it now. If you have to do the dishes, do them now! If you still feel dragged into staying on that couch, shut down your phone now. Do it now. Do not read further. Make a list, turn down the phone and go act on the first item on your list. Now. Go do it now. Not off yet? What are you waiting for? You are on your own. Do. It. Now.
If you think you cannot do it, I recommend reading The 4 Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss. It will make you realise how much time you waste by procrastinating and how many things you could do and achieve if you were not.