There will always be duties and projects that you want to put off. Learning how to work through them without procrastinating (as much) is a powerful tool to lower your daily stress. Here are three tips for resisting the temptation of procrastination and keeping your goals in sight:
1. Recognize your emotions
Procrastination thrives when you react to your emotions, rather than facing and naming them. For instance, if you think of a work project and immediately curl up with a blanket over your head, it’s going to be that much harder to stand up and get to work.
Try to note when the urge to procrastinate comes on. Once you are aware of what you’re doing and why, you’ve fought half the battle towards making a difficult change. What are you feeling? How is your body reacting? Are you scared? Are you angry? Does your body feel heavy, or are you restless? Don’t judge yourself; just shine light on the emotions around your procrastination.
2. Take small steps—and reward yourself for them
When you’re tackling procrastination, you’re likely changing a deeply rooted habit. Things that we’ve been doing for many years don’t happen overnight—it’s been proven that making lasting change takes both time and commitment. The best way to address procrastination: break it down. Choose one small piece of the work in front of you—and then reward yourself once it’s completed.
Once you’ve written two pages of a report, cleaned your kitchen, or run one of your many errands, treat yourself a latte, take a walk outside, or anything else that gives you a lift. You’ll likely find that the promise of the reward and breaking the task at hand down into smaller pieces makes it easier to complete.
3. Write yourself a new script
Long-term changes begin to stick when you start to think differently. It’s likely that you have a set of thoughts that recur every time you procrastinate, making it even harder to take any action.
Here is an example. When a dreaded project comes up, you may think, I hate this. I can’t do it. I shouldn’t have to. I’m too tired. Why bother? I’ll never get ahead. See how the thoughts spiral down into a sense of resentment and hopelessness far bigger than the actual project probably deserves?
To stop the downward thought spiral, pay attention to your thoughts and emotions. What are the thoughts, specifically, that come up when you start to procrastinate? Write them down, and then write a positive, affirming thought that counters each.
“I hate this” could become, “This is not my favorite work, but doing it will help my colleagues.” Or, “I can’t do it” might turn into, “Feeling nervous often means I’m learning something new. Getting through this will make my skills stronger.”