I think it's fair to say that many of us are able to quite expertly put the "pro" in procrastination. We can even plan to search for ways to stop procrastinating and apply said advice... later. Because we'll get around to it eventually, right? "Later" is the magical time when everything seems to work out better. It's just the right time — we'll be more focused, we'll have more energy, all of the answers will come to us, Mercury won't be in retrograde, etc.
But the reality of it is, there really is no such thing as "the right time" to do something that needs to be done. According to Psychology Today, procrastination reflects our perennial struggle with self-control and our inability to accurately predict how we'll feel in the future. So while we may think we'll be set for writing that paper the night before it's due, chances are we'll feel the same exact way about writing it as we did the week before — but now under way more stress.
In school, as assignment deadlines drew dangerously near, I justified that frantic last-minute scrambling and all-nighters with my claim that I simply worked better under pressure. While that may be true for some, it definitely wasn't for me. And probably not for some of my fellow procrastinators out there, either. Lucky for us, there are ways we can totally take control of our time management. Here are nine ways to beat procrastination right now. Or I mean, maybe after you read this article.
1. Clear Clutter When You Can
Be sure to clear your space of anything that risks distracting you, confusing you, or just getting in your way. And even more as a visual trigger, working in a neat and organized space can help direct your focus to the task at hand. You’ll feel less all over the place and less tempted to deviate from what you need to do. As productivity blogger Lionel Valdellon pointed out for Quora, clutter leads to procrastination. If your eye lands on stray papers on your desk and you're reminded of something else you need to do, your mind starts down a new track.
2. Disable Irrelevant Distractions
This may come across as pretty obvious, but I still need to put it out there. When I say irrelevant distractions, I mean anything that doesn’t help you directly with what you need to complete. Like if what you’re doing requires that you stay actively connected and available, obviously don’t toss your phone in the other room. If you’re doing some research on the Internet and you’re way too tempted to hover that cursor over to your Facebook or Tumblr tabs every three seconds, try controlling the urge with something like an app that blocks sites, according to Mashable. There's this really neat app called SelfControl that you can download directly to your computer. This allows you to choose which sites you want to block yourself from for a set period of time.
3. Choose The Right Environment
It's important to get to know yourself and hone in on the type of environment that really works best for you. While some people may prefer a quiet, more isolated setting, maybe you get more motivated in bustling, busy cafes. In a video for Inc., Josh Davis, author of Two Awesome Hours, gave some great advice for how to alter your workspace to be more productive, depending on the type of work you're doing. For example, something more analytic that requires deeper concentration will benefit more from a quiet space with bright light, while something more creative may thrive in a noisier environment with dimmer lighting to promote the concept of being "free from constraint."
4. Automate The Tedious Tasks
Don’t waste your time and energy on the mindless tasks that take away time that could have been used way more productively. Especially when we have a larger, more difficult project looming over our heads, we can be tempted to just distract ourselves with the busy work that isn’t as high of a priority and doesn’t require as much thought. Try to find a way to automate them, if you can, by adjusting what Lifehack calls your personal productivity system.
This consists of workflows (how you write and create blog posts and import your photos, for example) and tools — things like planners, to-do managers, calendars, applications, etc.
5. Create A Task List
Visualize what it is you need to get done with a list. According to Mind Tools, by creating an efficient to-do list, you'll experience less stress, comfort in the knowledge that you haven't forgotten anything important, and — if you prioritize intelligently — you'll focus your time and energy on high value activities that make you more productive. They provide some great tips on how to create an effective list that will work for you, so check it out!
6. Give Yourself Breaks
I'm not referring to the “procrastination breaks.” You know the ones I’m talking about. The extended breaks you give yourself to gather your thoughts before you’ve even started. I mean, once you’ve started working, be sure to allow yourself those little well-deserved breaks to make it all less painful. The Muse pointed to research conducted by professor of psychology Dr. Joseph Ferrari, who said it’s important not to burn yourself out, especially if you’re working on a large project. Give your brain a break, it needs it. And a well rested brain is probably more likely to do better work than an exhausted one.
7. Work In Chunks Of Time
In tune with giving yourself breaks, it helps if you split up certain tasks for allotted chunks of time. It won’t make it seem like as much, and it’ll help you stay more organized and on top of things. As Lifehack writer Mike Vardy pointed out, scheduling time blocks is a great strategy to make sure you get to everything you need. Vardy used his writing as an example. He found that narrowing down the category of writing he was working on for a specific time was much more effective than simply blocking out an entire day for "general writing." The latter was more overwhelming and made him less likely to get much done because the work just seemed like more and it was hard to know what to focus on, and for how long.
8. Track Your Progress
Be your own cheerleader. Keeping track of the progress you’ve made will help keep you motivated and push you to move forward. Taking this even further, Forbes contributor Margie Warrell suggested setting up a reward system to ensure you celebrate progress and small successes as you go along. It's important to make it something that acknowledges the effort you're making and that this effort is worthwhile.
9. Stop Being Such A Perfectionist
Done is better than perfect — as Jon Nastor pointed out to Entrepreneur — and striving for perfection has been the death of many brilliant ideas, products, books, and businesses. We can wait around all day for the inspiration to strike us with that perfect idea, or we can just jump right in and work our way to it. Even if you get stuck at a certain point, and it just isn't that initial masterpiece you imagined it to be, don't just stop. Those ideas — no matter how half-baked — are a lot better let out of your head than kept in your head.
So next time you find yourself thinking of all the other things you could be doing rather than what actually needs to get done (like maybe right now?), take hold of these nine hacks to turn that tomorrow into today.