We’ve all been there: that time when we had a big deadline coming up, or something important we knew needed to get done.
And instead of figuring out what to do, it became easier to just put things aside and surf the net. Sound familiar?
Procrastination is a common way of dealing with stress. Studies have shown that procrastinators tend to see things for the short-term by choosing temporary relief rather than considering the long-term impact of their actions.
Is there a way to overcome procrastination?
Everyone, even top performers, have days when they don’t want to do anything. The difference is that top performers find specific strategies to get themselves moving and accomplish things.
If you find yourself putting work off until “later”, there are techniques you can use to motivate yourself. It’s not simply about being born a productive person.
These 3 simple techniques will give you that initial boost of energy that you need to get started:
Technique #1: Promise yourself a reward after doing a set amount of work.
I like to treat myself to a reward, such as the latest episode of my favorite TV show — but only after I’ve done a certain amount of work. For example, if I haven’t started doing any work, I tell myself to get a portion of the work done before I can relax.
I repeat this process until the work gets done, if needed. So if you haven’t started on something, try giving yourself something pleasant to look forward to afterward as a source of motivation.
There’s also another benefit to this method. Sometimes, I find that once I get started on work, it’s easy to keep going. As a result, I can easily forgo my break and keep working for longer than I initially expected.
Technique #2: Break the task down into tiny chunks.
When we have a big task in front of us, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by everything and just put things aside. Large tasks can actually be demotivating because it feels unrealistic to get things done.
As a result, we often don’t bother getting starting on something we want to do. We fear failure. Or, we figure that if we can’t finish what we start, so why bother in the first place?
Instead of having a number of large tasks to do or one big task, just set one small task for now. You can begin with creating a concrete goal just for the day.
If you’re really feeling overwhelmed, you can break up the task even further. I like to create “mini-goals” that are very simple. For example, if I write an article, I might just set up a small goal such as jotting down a few bullet points.
Even though the task is small, it helps to make each component of the larger task much more manageable. It also breaks the resistance that we often feel when trying to start on something.
Technique #3: Give yourself a mental warm up first.
Have you ever woken up and thought to yourself, “Today is the day I’ll get started on _______” (i.e. being healthy, changing to a different career, etc.)?
And once you sat down at your desk, you proceeded to surf the net for the next 45 minutes?
Let’s admit it. It can be difficult to go from waking up in the morning to getting yourself working right away. Our brains are still in resting mode and it can take a while to get used to doing something productive.
This is why I recommending doing a mental warm up exercise beforehand.
Let’s think of it this way: you wouldn’t do intense exercise without stretching first, so wouldn’t it make sense that you should get your brain active before working?
I like to start off my day by doing some reading and highly recommend it (No, not the latest gossip news!).
Instead, I suggest reading an interesting book that gets your brain going, whether it’s on self-development, a biography, or psychology.
You could warm up mentally by jotting down creative, innovative ideas on a notepad. Doing crossword or Sudoku puzzles are also small, but fun and effective ways to start off your day.
Now Is the Best Time to Get Started
Successful people find techniques to get themselves in the right frame of mind, rather than thinking “someday” they’ll get the work done. They look at problems from a different perspective compared to the average person, which helps them to accomplish more.
You too can do the same. When you break things down, start small, and warm yourself up, you can complete more tasks than had you set out to finish one large task. It may sound ironic, but aiming small can be the key to killing that laziness for once and for all.
Originally Published on Medium
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