We have all been through the rabbit hole of Procrastination. It always starts off as ‘a single’ YouTube video of a movie trailer, but eventually transforms into 20+ YouTube videos about why cats were worshipped in ancient Egypt! Procrastination has been killing our productivity for a while now, it is time for us to retaliate—
Block out distractions
This is by far the most obvious, yet least used step to combat Procrastination. When the options of distractions are open, we unknowingly wander there. However, if we successfully block the distractions out, our mind will have no option but to focus on the task at hand.
Whenever I decide to do some important work, I switch on a blocker for all social media sites. That way, even if I’m stupid enough to try to go there a ‘Blocked’ page comes up. As a result of seeing those ‘Blocked’ pages frequently, I feel a lower urge to check social media during my Medium writing.
Procrastination is a natural stress coping mechanism for the body. When we are burdened by stress, our minds try to seek pleasure by accomplishing small and easy tasks like watching cat videos, checking Facebook notifications and browsing through e-mails. The completion of these small and insignificant tasks gives the minds a false sense of accomplishment, thus making procrastination a go-to option in situations of stress.
If I catch myself procrastinating, I pay attention to the thoughts I’m having. If I’m stressing over something, I dedicate my energy on find ways to destress myself instead of getting stressed further by my procrastination.
Focus on one task
Multitasking is a false concept and is known to hamper productivity in more ways than I can enumerate in this post.
When we focus on a multitude of tasks, our mind tends to get overwhelmed. The more overwhelmed our mind gets, the harder it tries to seek out pleasure from small and insignificant tasks.
If I have a whole array of tasks to work on. I prioritize and work on them one-by-one. The more tasks I try to accomplish together, the more overwhelmed I become and the more susceptible I’m to procrastination.
Have a clear goal
Our mind is naturally inclined towards finishing the tasks we once begin. (Hence, getting started is the most difficult part of any task.) The lack of a clear ‘finish’ actually gives our mind the ability to define its own finish line.
For example, If I start writing a Medium post with no particular goal in mind, the mind will decide that the goal is to write 50 words. As soon as I’m done with 50 words, my mind realizes that the goal is achieved and decides to jump into the rabbit hole of Procrastination.
If I decide to work on a task, I need to have an end goal in mind. Without the end goal, my mind will have the liberty to take a break prematurely. For example, If I set out to write a Medium post with a goal of writing 500 words, it is more likely for the mind to focus on the post until I hit the 500 word mark.
Imagine working on a task. Suddenly your mind wanders into procrastination. You forcefully pull it back to the task at hand. However, you aren’t able to fully focus on the said task. This is due to the creation of an open loop.
An open loop is created when your mind wants to perform an action but the action is not completed due to some force (for example, will power.)
Procrastination is bad, but open loops are worse. It is due to these open loops that we can’t focus on the task at hand. Less focus, means more stress and hopefully we all know that more stress is equivalent to more procrastination.
Each time my mind drifts away to something other than the task at hand, I make a note of what it drifted towards. After making a note, I promise yourself to go back to drift zone at a later point in time. Finally, I move my attention towards the task I was working on. This is a neat way for me to close the open loop and maintain productivity.
Consider taking a break
If our mind continues to drift into procrastination despite our best efforts, it means that we have reached a point of saturation with that work. When our mind does reach saturation it is important to cool down. After a small break the mind will be all geared up to ace the task with renewed vigor.
If I fall into procrastination, repeatedly. I set up a ten-minute alarm on my phone and take a break for that duration. The ten-minute alarm ensures that the break is deliberate and time boxed. I personally feel that ten-minute breaks work for me during most occasions.
Procrastination is a problem we all face. I cope with this problem by—
- Blocking out distractions.
- Focussing on the underlying stress.
- Working on a single task.
- Having a well-defined goal.
- Taking note of missteps.
- Relaxing for short durations.
I hope this post helps you win the everlasting battle with Procrastination.