Do you perform better under pressure? Do you become stressed out easily? Are you always in a hurry? If you answered yes to any/all of these questions: you might be a procrastinator, my friend, and with 2015 just around the corner, there are a few New Year's resolutions to consider that may just make this the best year ever.
Look, I feel you. I’m a procrastinator from way back. And I’m not alone. According to the American Psychological Association, 20 percents of Americans suffer from chronic procrastination as of 2010 — that’s roughly 66 million people. Chronic procrastinators not only have trouble starting and finishing projects or tasks, but they also have increased trouble with impulse control and paying attention. For many, procrastination is a serious life hindrance that keeps them from achieving in school, at work, and even in relationships.
But 2015 could be the year you change that. You’ll have to work hard, though, which means not clicking over to Twitter before you hear me out. Overcoming procrastination isn’t like making a resolution to lose weight or save money — you’ll basically be attempting to alter years of heavily ingrained bad habits and even genetic predisposition. But I promise you you’ll feel immensely better about yourself and your life. First rule of combating procrastination: Set realistic goals (which is why there are only five resolutions here)!
1. Come to Terms with the Fact that It's Completely OK to Fail
As I mentioned, overcoming procrastination is going to be hard. Like, seriously hard. And while you’ll have to work at it, you also have to know that it’s OK to fail. One of the major causes of procrastination comes from how the limbic system in your brain operates. The limbic system controls emotions and behavior (specifically motivation), and can trigger a sort of emotional course correction when faced with something unpleasant. So as hard as you try, sometimes you won’t have the strength to power through filing your taxes on time or finishing that paper. You don’t want to make excuses for why you procrastinate, but you also have to allow yourself some breathing room, or else everything you have to do will seem unpleasant and the cycle will continue.
2. Hold Yourself Accountable
You’ll need to be nice to yourself during this process. You also need to give yourself the tools to succeed. One of the best things I’ve found to combat my procrastination is to actively hold myself accountable and keep track of what I have to do. A lot of people keep mental lists of when things are due or what needs to be done, but us procrastinators need something a little more concrete. I recommend getting a good planning or productivity app for your phone or desktop — I currently use Any.Do, a structured to-do list app. I like it because it lets you separate your tasks into things that need to be done today (like finishing that presentation), to someday (like cleaning your garage). It also lets you set reminders and share tasks with others. It helps keep me aware of what I need to do and, man, does it feel good to cross something off the list.
3. Pair Pleasure With Pain
Procrastinators use a lot of distractions to get out of things, and one of my biggest distractions is TV. I can make every excuse in the book as to why I can watch one more episode of SVU rather than go grocery shopping or pay my bills. Try pairing something you like doing with something you don’t, like catching up on your favorite shows while you’re at the gym, or taking an audio book with you during Christmas shopping. This will take a ton of self-regulation and determination, but it’ll be worth it. Eliminating distractions will also help eliminate excuses for why you can’t start or finish tasks.
4. Treat Yo Self
In the same vain, it doesn’t hurt to give yourself a reward for good work. One of my great joys in life is playing video games. And it gets extra hard to focus on things I need to do when a new video game is waiting for me. So I use that to motivate me. I promise myself that if I get this, this, and this done, then I can play for a few hours before I go to sleep. Give yourself a light at the end of the tunnel, and you’ll be at least a little more motivated to check things off your to-do list.
5. Make Things Easier For Yourself
It’s easy to get overwhelmed from time to time, especially when you have a lot on your plate. But overcoming procrastination doesn’t mean you have to do every single thing, so try and make things easier for yourself. Set realistic goals, and break the things you can do down into manageable pieces. Eliminate things you know you’re never going to be able to do in the near future to take some pressure off you. Ask for help when you need it, like asking your boyfriend to pick up the dry cleaning, or asking your co-worker if they could help you finish the expense report. Believe me, the less tired/stressed/pissed off you are, the more things will get done.
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