Are you a procrastinator? There’s no need to feel ashamed about it — most of us are. It’s not our proudest times, but we’ve all been there two hours before deadline with no plan in sight.
But is you’re one of those people who constantly need to rush everything you do because you always wait until the last second to start, you might have a real problem on your hands. Let’s start with why this happens.
Understand the Problem
The key to solving your procrastination issue is understanding what the root cause of it is. And the reason is always the same: feeling the anxiety and dread of the looming deadline is preferable to not doing whatever you’re putting off. That prompts you to open a new tab, go to Reddit or Twitter or whatever your choice of media is, and zone out. Anything from useless stuff like video games and organizing your sock drawer to useful things like learning a language and doing other, less urgent work can be your choice of way to procrastinate.
The price you pay for avoiding tasks is time you’ll never get back and mental reserves you use up on feeling anxious, not to mention the fact that the result of your work hugely suffers if you can’t do it at a leisurely pace. There’s no reason not to solve this problem other than satisfying your fear of failing.
Start Working as Soon as an Idea Hits You
Even when you’re still days from when you need to start working on that project, your brain is already firing its synapses on possible ways to go at it. That’s why you might suddenly have an idea while mindlessly pushing a shopping cart while getting groceries.
When you get this idea, try not to ‘put a pin in it’. Ideas become less and less attractive as time after having them passes, so start working on developing it as soon as you can. Sure, it might turn out to be garbage, but you’re a procrastinator, and every time you defeat the “I’ll do it later” instinct is a major victory.
Divide Your Work Into Small Chunks and Set up Rewards
Before you start working, devise a detailed plan. This plan should break down your entire workflow into small pieces, and include mini-deadlines for each part of it, as well as small rewards for each completion, with a big one at the end.
The fact that the tasks are tiny will motivate you to do them. It’s far easier to write one sentence than a paragraph, and when you’re a procrastinator, you tend to see the project not as the sum of smaller pieces that it is, but as if it’s mount Everest — one gargantuan monolith thing to be conquered.
Sequential deadlines (with lots of buffer) will spur you into action. The added benefit is that every time you hit a deadline it’s reinforced in your brain that you can hit it. You need some positive reinforcements, instead of the negative ones you’ve been giving yourself by procrastinating.
The small rewards you give yourself will also be part of that positive reinforcement. You don’t need a fire under your ass, you need to believe you can do it and not fear the outcome.
These are just the beginning steps of curing the procrastinator inside you. You’ll need to do all of the above, do it again and again, and so much more until the process becomes part of your personality, and displaces the procrastinator part of you. With enough time and energy put into it, anyone can do it. Don’t put it off for tomorrow.