7 clever ways to beat your procrastination habit
Canadian author and New Yorker columnist Malcolm Gladwell’s very simple solution to eradicating stress seems a little too good to be true, writes Lucy Kippist.
I love stumbling upon other people’s simple solutions to everyday problems.
“I don’t know if I understand what makes events stressful,” Malcolm told Arianna. “If you prepare properly for those events, the stressfulness goes away.”
Surprisingly simple as Malcolm’s reply seems, you can’t deny the logic.
"A little bit of work everyday makes you the opposite of a procrastinator"
Because as he goes onto explain: “[Doing] a little bit of work everyday makes you the opposite of a procrastinator…”
Which by definition makes him a ‘precrastinator’: Someone who prepares in advance eradicates the notion of being stressed in the first place.
For example: as a college student Malcolm said he’d spend the first half of the academic year writing his own exam papers and then the second half (when he had run out of money), writing papers for everyone else in his class for a fee!
What an enterprising genius.
If only I could relate.
In times of stress I procrastinate: How about you?
When working at home, I fall into two camps: a kettle over-boiler and somewhat manic doer of laundry.
That is, I seek out dirty clothes and linen, stick it in the washing machine and hang it out to dry. Justifying all the day that “as I’m at home, might as well tick off some housework while I’m at it.”
The end result? Tidy house, not so tidy to-do list.
In a bid for solutions to my problem, I posted a call-out for fellow procrastinators on the Flying Solo forums – of which there were quite a few!
Happily they also shared some clever ways to avoid it; here are some of my favourites.
1. Productive procrastination
“Checking social too much, re-writing the same sentence too often, reading stuff not related to my project, or simply staring at the beige wall in front of me too long and I know it’s time to go do something else, “writes Flying Solo member RoseC. “I find spending five or 10 mins doing something not work related means when I sit back down at my desk I’m able to settle quicker and focus on what I need to.”
2. The 5 minute rule
“Starting is the hardest part,” writes Flying Solo’s concierge Dave Gillen. “Just do 5 minutes. Starting is the hard part, and after 5 minutes usually you’re into it.”
3. Divide and conquer
Also from Dave: “Write down all your tasks and highlight them in two different colours – real work and other work. If you make your main work blocks for “real work only” then you’re forced to do that thing or sit there and literally do nothing. Even the work you’re putting off starts to look good compared to staring at the wall. But if you’re email is sitting there or some other distraction it won’t work. The idea is to make that block of time so boring that your boring task is the most interesting thing.”
4. Use a co-working space
“Procrastination and distraction are one of the reasons I try to use co-working spaces occasionally, because my office set-up at home isn’t ideal at the moment.,” writes member Elissa Doxey.
5. Deep work and shallow work
Member @battlerseverywhere shared this technique from computer scientist Cal Newport.
“Split work into two categories: deep work and shallow work. Deep work involves concentration, getting in the zone, performing at a high level, etc. A human can only do deep work for a maximum of, say, two hours a day, but will fatigue far sooner (e.g. can only do 30 mins of deep work) when trying deep work for the first time.
“I feel like I get MUCH more done in short sharp bursts of deep work than when compared to longer hours of distracted work. I find it’s easier to motivate myself to be productive when telling myself that I only have to work hard for 60 mins.”
6. Set a deadline and stick to it
“Time based goals (and tasks) are the cornerstone of progress,” writes member James Millar. “No better demonstrated than by JKF’s moon speech when he declared in 1962 that by the end of that decade they would put man on the moon – and they did just that …. Set a date and get it done.”
7. Embrace it!
“I still maintain that procrastination is the most underrated management tool,” writes forum member Burgo. “It’s one of my favourite hobbies.”
“Procrastination allows you to think your problems through. You may not always be aware that this supposedly stuffing around is nothing more than indecision… So if you do find yourself procrastinating allow your mind to travel and it will take the pressure off.”
Some excellent advice there from some clued-up soloists.
What’s your best method for avoiding procrastination?