A lot of us are guilty of the terrible habit of procrastination, and chances are if you're reading this article, you're one of the fellow sufferers. Once you get into a good groove, finding ways to stop your procrastination can seem near impossible. You've got a whole queue of your favorite TV shows waiting, you have a plethora of things you can spend time eating in your kitchen, or you might even tackle every chore on your list before you sit down and tackle the work you owe your boss by EOD. It's a hard cycle to break. But what if you don't necessarily have to break it? What if, instead, you embrace it? Hear me out.
Once you have such a deeply (and satisfyingly) ingrained habit like procrastination, it can take a lot of effort to change it. So instead of trying to delete it out of your life, you can try to work around it. By using your tendency to put things off and avoid work like the plague, you can trick yourself to use it as a motivator to get work done. Below are seven ways to turn your procrastination into positive change. Your to-do list will be done in no time!
1. Do The Prep Work Earlier
If you're a big procrastinator, don't give yourself a chance to make a decision between being lazy and being productive. Instead, take that completely out of the equation by prepping materials for tasks the night before. According to lifestyle writer Yuri Kruman at Lifehack who tested out the technique, "This took away the need to make decisions in the morning, so I could get things done."
For example, if you want to eat healthier, pack yourself a lunch before you go to bed. If you want to give off the vibe you're more professional at work, lay out your clothes when you get back home. If you want to learn more about your field, have a podcast ready on the computer you can play while you get ready for work, or if you want to learn more about self-improvement, download some articles onto your phone the night prior that you could read on the bus. If you take out the bit where you get to decide between "yes" and "no" for the question "should I get started?" you'll get a lot further.
2. Link Someone Into The Equation To Make Yourself Accountable
Usually we procrastinate important tasks to do fun things like go out to the movies or hang out with our friends, so turn the table on yourself by using that urge to go out to get stuff done. Whether it's agreeing to get drinks after you wrap up your project today or scheduling a shopping afternoon Saturday morning after you get caught up with all your work, roping someone into the equation keeps you accountable. Because if you don't finish on schedule, you'll have to deal with letting someone down.
Kruman shared, "Before I met my wife, I was writing my first novel on and off for 5 years without much progress. When she told me, 'finish or I’m out of here,' it got done within a few months." Even something as simple as knowing your pal has her heart set on margaritas after work today will encourage you to finish said work on time.
3. Make Procrastination Into A Treat
If you're super prone to procrastination, don't take it entirely out of your life (because that's impossible) but instead turn it into a treat. As in, if you work X amount of minutes, you can have five minutes to waste time to your heart's content. This is called the Pomodoro Technique.
Lifestyle writer Jamie Rosenstein at Lifehack explained, "The Pomodoro Technique is great for people who like to work in short, productive bursts. Usually you work in 25 minutes intervals with about 5 minutes breaks between each work session. Then after four work sessions, you get a longer 20 or 30 minute break."
This way you make your procrastination work for you — if you want to scroll through Pinterest, you have to do the work first.
4. Time Chunk Wasting Time
Time chunking is when you allot a certain amount of time to a specific task, trying to get the work done in that agreed upon time period. If you have a penchant of procrastinating most of the day because you feel like you need that mental break, try officially working that procrastination into your schedule. That way you know you have an hour coming up where you can watch Downton Abbey or paint your nails or clean your closet, and you won't feel inclined to do it while you're actually supposed to be working.
Rosenstein elaborated, "The idea is to dedicate certain times of the day or certain days of the week to different task categories. You can even add in 'Waste Time' as a category so you can plan on doing all that would normally serve as distractions during work time." If you know your "waste time" hour is coming up, you'll be less inclined to do just that while you should be in the middle of tackling your to-do list. It'd just feel too wrong.
5. Channel Your Favorite Procrastination Tools Into Something Productive
Turn your favorite method of procrastinating into something positive by giving it a work-spin. Kruman offered, "Guilt over procrastination never diminished the amount of time I spent on social media. So...I 'liked' the FB and LinkedIn pages of publications and people and companies I actually wanted to read and left out all the rest."
If you find yourself going on Twitter or Facebook too often, filter your feed or create a list of people you follow that only post educational or industry-related articles. If you like listening to podcasts, only click on those that can teach you something new or help you grow in your career. If you spend too much time on Pinterest, search for inspiration that'll make you feel motivated to get back to writing or organizing or gathering clients. Waste time in a way that ultimately benefits your work.
6. Work Out Which Tasks To Ditch Using The Quadrant Method
If you're constantly crossing things off your list that you just don't want to do, add a method to your procrastinating madness and do it right. That method is called the Quadrant Method. With it, you assign tasks into four quadrants. The top two columns are labeled "Urgent" and "Not Urgent," and the first two rows are named "Important" and "Not Important." Then you categorize your tasks according to where they fall, allowing you to ditch some of them as they fall into the "Not Important/Not Urgent" category, appealing to your procrastinator's heart.
Rosenstein agreed, "Not Urgent and Not Important should really be avoided while the Not Important but Urgent should not be allowed to take up more than a small portion of your time." Seeing yourself opt to let go of some tasks on your to-do list will appeal to your procrastinator's side, while focusing on the important work will keep you on track.
7. Move The "Reward" Vibe Of Procrastination Into Productivity
Often time we procrastinate because it's instant gratification. We feel good while we're doing it, whereas starting our work will only gratify us once it's done at the end of the day. Not as appealing.
Change that around by moving that "I need a reward" vibe from procrastination into productivity. Treat every minor thing you finish on your to-do list as a cause to celebrate.
Lifestyle writer Dustin Wax at Lifehack wrote, "Making a list feels like you’re doing something. Bing! You’ve got your reward. Crossing something done off your list feels good. Bing! Another reward." It'll feel satisfying highlighting how you're making excellent progress through your tasks. Just move these procrastination-based ideas into your productivity game and watch yourself get all your to-do's accomplished!
Images: @jessannkirby/ Instagram