So you’re a slacker… me too.
I admit that, from time to time, I lack the necessary motivation to get things done.
I’m not a serial procrastinator but I do sometimes put things off until the last minute.
Now, just because we might procrastinate, it doesn’t make us bad people!
In fact, according to John Perry, author of The Art of Procrastination, we procrastinators can be extremely productive. In his WSJ article, Perry points out that procrastinators, “are people who not only get a lot done but have a reputation for getting a lot done.”
Still, if you are an occasional procrastinator like me, you probably want to do better. Procrastinating makes me feel bad about, well… procrastinating.
So here are three research-driven ways we can fight the procrastination monster, to feel better and more accomplished. Who doesn’t want to feel better?
I Love It, I Just Love It!
Make sure you really want to do the “thing” you aren’t doing. Obviously, if you hate the task in front of you, it’s going to be very hard to motivate yourself to get to work.
Procrastination is much easier to avoid when we have a desire to get the “thing” done but just aren’t sure where to start.
Of course, it isn’t always possible to love the task in front of us. Yet, if we can find something good about whatever “thing” we are avoiding, we can change our perception of it.
“Perception precedes action. Right action follows the right perspective.” Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle Is The Way.
Just Get Started!
So Timonthy A. Pychyl, Ph.D., Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada and his students did some experiments. Using pagers, they followed a week of progress on a task. What they discovered was this… once you get started, your perception of the task changes.
In most cases, at the end of the week when participants were forced to get started, the test subject reported that they wished they had started on their task sooner.
The reality is that once we start to do something, we start to realize it’s not nearly as difficult, tough, bad, horrible, as we thought it would be. Another benefit? We feel better about ourselves. Even if we don’t get finished we feel good about having made progress, and that can help us push through finishing.
Taking one small step or action towards something you are putting off, can be just enough to tackle the procrastination monster.
Remember the Good Times
Outlined in a recent article in the journal Memory, researchers at the University of New Hampshire conducted a study to determine what effect, if any, memories had on future exercise experiences.
“The researchers found that students who remembered a positive exercise memory reported significantly higher levels of subsequent exercise than those who were not asked to recall a memory about exercise.”
Although we aren’t specifically talking about procrastination associated with exercise, the same idea may very well hold true for anything we might be putting off.
Remembering the positive aspect of accomplishing the very thing you are currently procrastinating, could impact your perception of the task, help you reframe, and get you moving forward.
Love it or hate it, if you are a serial procrastinator, you should probably stop fighting it. Half the battle to forward progress is accepting that there are times we are going to procrastinate.
Sometimes it might be just one task we keep putting off or sometimes it’s a whole area of our lives. Whatever your specific form of procrastination, knowing and embracing your propensity to procrastinate is step one.
Step two is to take some action to gain forward momentum. Try finding a reason to love one thing about the task at hand, try taking one itty bitty step or action towards the task, or give some thought to the last time you tackled procrastination and use the positive memory to energize you.
There’s no easy cure for the procrastination blues, but forward momentum can be achieved.
It’s all about the reframe.
Holiday, Ryan, The Obstacle Is The Way. Portfolio/Penguin, 2014.
Perry, John, The Art of Procrastination. Workman Publishing Company, 2012.
Pychyl, Timothy A. (2008, March 26). Just Get Started. Psychology Today. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/dont-delay/200803/just-get-started
University of New Hampshire. (2014, March 17). Positive memories of exercise spur future workouts. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140317095837.htm