10 Scientifically Proven Tips for Beating Procrastination
Here are ten science-based tips on how to master the daunting task you have been avoiding.
The key to defeating procrastination is focus. We often give ourselves too many things to do and get overwhelmed as a result. Start by choosing just one thing ONE you have been putting off, and resolve to do that task in the next week.
Once you have narrowed it down to one task, you need to take action immediately. Today. If you feel discouraged or think you do not have enough time to complete the task, do the following five-minute miracle.
This is one of the best techniques for people who struggle with procrastination. The Five-Minute Miracle consists of asking yourself, "Hmm, what can I do in less than five minutes TODAY to move things forward even a little bit?" Once you find a small action, set a timer for five minutes and work on the task for five minutes. Research shows that once you start something, you are much more likely to finish it. This is due to a psychological phenomenon called the Zeigarnik effect, which states that unfinished tasks are more likely to stick in your mind. (It's also why our minds get stuck in a loop when we think of all the things we have not finished yet). Remember, a small action is still an action. Five minutes can make all the difference.
A Power Hour consists of pushing aside all distractions and working in focused chunks of time (for starters, I recommend no more than twenty minutes), followed by short rest periods to harness the optimal power of your brain and body.
Science has found that our brains go through natural cycles with peaks and valleys. To maximize your performance, it's important that you accommodate these peaks and valleys by balancing concentrated, focused time with relaxation and integration.
5. Kill it with kindness.
Research shows that the more you can forgive yourself for past procrastination, the more likely you are to overcome your current procrastination and take action. Practice self-compassion when you think about your past experiences with procrastination.
6. Have a procrastination power song.
Pick a song that really gets you going and play it whenever you want to tackle something you have been putting off. The brain likes to have a trigger to create a new habit, plus you are more likely to follow through if you feel good about yourself.
Sometimes it can be helpful to understand exactly why you have been putting off a certain task. Are you afraid of something? Maybe you feel overwhelmed and do not know where to start. Complete the sentence, "I am avoiding this task because..." or "I am avoiding this task because I am afraid that....". And see what comes up. Identifying your fears can help you realize that the monsters in your closet are not as bad as you think.
Most people put way too much on their to-do list. One way to stop putting something off is to decide that you will never do it. What can you cross off your to-do list? Try crossing something off your list simply because you realize that you do not really need to do that thing... Ever. Give yourself permission to let it go.
It can be very helpful to have a partner who will stand up for you. A fun way to take it a step further is to make a bet with your friend or colleague. Set a day and time within the next week that you will complete this task and then say to your friend or colleague, "I'll give you $10 / take you out to lunch / buy you coffee / watch that awful movie you have been wanting to see / etc. if I do not complete this task by 10:00 next Wednesday." Give your partner a date and time within the next week, and tell them that they must report to you on that date and time in order to receive the agreed-upon reward. If you have not completed your task by then... you owe him what you bet!
Another way to motivate yourself to complete a task is to think of a reward to give yourself once the task is done. What can you treat yourself to once you have completed this task? Research shows that the human brain responds to reward stimuli, and this can be a great way to create habits.