We all procrastinate for different reasons. For me, it’s usually the pointless pursuit of perfectionism. When I’m in a procrastination slump I only want to start a task when I’m able to produce a near-perfect result. My self-talk is usually, “I’ll start when I have more time,” or “I’ll begin when I’m in the right frame of mind”, and so on.
But in the past few weeks, every time I’m about to procrastinate I remove any pressure by pre-empting the end result of my first attempt. I say the following four words:
“This won’t be pretty.”
(Or, if I’m feeling particularly wild and rebellious, “This will be crap”.)
How does it help?
By acknowledging that my first attempt may be substandard, I remove my perfection pants and just get started. Without the inner pressure, the end result is always quite reasonable and sometimes pretty good! No matter what standard it is, I can easily mould it toward near-perfection over time because I have something to improve on. As they say, you can’t edit something that hasn’t been written.
Procrastination breeds procrastination. If I delay one thing, I delay another. Those four simple words help me topple over the procrastination hump, dust myself off, and plod along in a state of gentle productivity.
In just the past few days, among other things, my four words have helped me:
- Declutter a few drawers
- Write the first draft of this article
- Write eight tagline concepts for a new client
- Write the first draft of a client’s “Why Choose?” page
(Caveat: Of course, I wouldn’t say “This won’t be pretty” if I was about to:
- Pack someone’s parachute
- Perform brain surgery
- Replace car brakes
I still believe in being adequately qualified and prepared!)
These four words don’t always work alone. Here’s what to do.
On days when my mind is particularly distracted, within a few minutes or even just a few seconds of starting my task, I want to quickly check my emails or Facebook. Why? Well, based on the science of productivity, before starting a task the brain visualises the hideously hard parts, and tries to simulate real work by focusing on small, mindless tasks like checking social media.
So, while “This won’t be pretty” gets me started, in order to keep going I need to fight the allure of distractions. I usually do this by imagining how I’ll feel when the task is finished as opposed to how I’ll feel if I succumb to the distractions.
Thankfully, the Zeigarnik Effect usually kicks in too. This is a construct of the mind that compels us to finish a task we’ve started. If we don’t finish the task, we usually feel uncomfortable and uneasy.
So the key is to remove pressure and just get started. Perhaps you can come up with your own inspirational words to help you take action? If you do, let me know what they are in the comments section below.
How do you deal with procrastination?