Procrastination is often confused with laziness, but they are very different.
Procrastination is an active process – we choose to do something else instead of the task that we know we should be doing. In contrast, laziness suggests apathy, inactivity and an unwillingness to act.
Procrastination usually involves ignoring an unpleasant, but likely more important task, in favor of one that is more enjoyable or easier.
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When we’re not motivated to reach our goal, it’s hard even getting started. So even the first small step towards it will seem like an achievement. For instance, if we have some reading to do for our paper, spend ten minutes or so reading a page.
Once we’ve taken that step, we’ve already told our brain that a change has happened. Our naturally lazy brain (we are all wired to be lazy) will no longer resist. We will then set off a momentum towards our goal, that will carry we like a wave and get us there.
Sometimes we find ourselves returning to a task repeatedly, still unwilling to take the first step. We hear a little voice in our head saying, “Yeah, good idea, but . . . no.” At this point, we need to ask that voice some questions, to figure out what’s really making it unappealing to take action.
Patiently ask ourselves a few “why” questions—“Why does it feel tough to do this?” and “Why’s that?”—and the blockage can surface quite quickly.
Procrastination is a habit – a deeply ingrained pattern of behavior. This means that we probably can't break it overnight. Habits only stop being habits when we avoid practicing them, so try as many of the strategies, below, as possible to give ourselves the best possible chance of succeeding.
As with most habits , it is possible to overcome procrastination. However, we may also be failing to overcome it, if we just:
Setting a timer (after putting our phone on the airplane mode) can be a simple way of defining an intent for ourselves. We’ll find it easier to focus on.
Breaking up the time we spend on the task into bite-sized pieces will break down a complex task into smaller, more manageable parts.
For more effective, we can divide up our day into four categories of activities based on a scale of urgency versus importance.
Q 1: Import & Urgent ~ Short-term crises and problems
Q 2: Import but Not Urgent ~ Long-term strategic goals
Q 3: Not Import but Urgent ~ Distractions and interruptions
Q 4: Not Import & Not Urgent ~ Time-wasting activities
To start, all we need to do is audit our day. Jot down every activity we engage in, and indicate what quadrant it falls into. Then, at the end of the week, find out what percentage of our time we spent in each quadrant.
Spend as much time in quadrant 2, the long-term goal-related quadrant, as we possibly can. If we find that ourself procrastinating, pick two tasks that we can do at the start of our day that will help progress us towards our long-term goals the most.
“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
We put off small jobs, like a quick email to a colleague or menial paperwork. We keep putting it off. We waste time thinking about how annoying the task is, but it does not go away.
These small tasks take up a considerable amount of space in our minds. But there are simple ways to bring them back to size.
Procrastination is something you do, not someone you are. When you stop making procrastination part of your identity, you free yourself up to change.
Don't judge yourself for how you feel. Instead, analyze the problem and see how you can move forward.
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