The 3 Tricks I Use to Overcome Procrastination
I see procrastination as a monster. I’m not quite sure what the monster looks like exactly. I think he might be green. I’m not sure if he is round like the Mucinex monsters or tall and thin like an alien. Regardless, the procrastination monster is an enemy of great proportions. It tries to convince you of things that are logically ridiculous and we fall for it more often than we would like to admit. Next thing we know, we are making excuses in our head.
For example, “I’ll get it done first thing in the morning.” Yeah right. How often does that happen?
Or “I’ve got plenty of time to get that done,” and then next thing you know, “Oops! I need it done tonight!”
Or, “It’s not as important to do as this awesome task over here!”
Or, “You haven’t talked to that person in ages. You should definitely call them before you do anything else while it is on your mind.”
Or, “I’ll just watch one episode and then I’ll start on that project.” Next thing you know, you have binge watched the whole season, ordered pizza and are ready to watch the next season.
Yeah, the procrastination monster is a silver-tongued devil.
Figuring out WHY you are avoiding a certain task is the first step to slaying the procrastination monster. Maybe you are avoiding the task because you know it will be boring, liking getting your taxes ready. Or maybe you just flat-out hate the task, like cleaning the hair out of the shower drain.
For me, when I find myself procrastinating with something that I’m not looking forward to doing, I’m often surprised when it is something I should be looking forward to doing. This is my first hint that I need to look deeper. Why am I not looking forward to doing it?
For example, right now I’m procrastinating typing up the handout I need for a workshop I’m doing next week. I love the subject of this workshop. Why am I dreading doing the flyer?
In this case, I think it’s because I’m not sure how I want to format it. Also, I’m afraid that the information on this handout won’t be of any help to the people, but I don’t know what other information to give them. And I like to give something for them to take home.
So, that’s one reason I procrastinate – because I don’t know how to approach the task.
Another reason I procrastinate is because of a personality trait that comes with my Enneagram number – the nine. Every number has a “sin” attached to it and for the nine the sin is “sloth.” Now, sloth doesn’t necessarily mean that nines are lazy. On the contrary, nines can get a lot done…for other people they are invested in. But when it comes to things that are important for themselves, for their own life, their own growth…yeah, that easily gets put on the back burner. It’s amazing the other things I feel energized to do that are NOT related to the thing that is important to my own life moving forward.
For example, right know I really really want to organize a drawer in my bedroom. I can picture in detail all the things I could throw away or donate in that drawer. I’m drawn to the idea of clearing away the junk and creating new space. This drawer has needed an organization overhaul for probably a year. But now, RIGHT NOW I feel the drive, I feel the urgency to get that done. I DO NOT feel the urgency for the handout for a workshop that I’m hoping will allow me to reach out to new people and help them on their path to healing. Nope. That doesn’t seem urgent. But that drawer…
The flat truth is that procrastination is a monster that blocks us from moving forward. Whether it be a small thing that needs to be accomplished so we can take it off our list, or a big thing that is keeping us from walking down the healing path. It is very important that once we figure out why the procrastination monster is there that we have tools to slay the procrastination monster.
Here are some of the tools I use to destroy the procrastination monster when he tries to derail me.
1 – The “Just Do It For 15 Minutes” Trick – I tell myself to do the task for 15 minutes and if I’m still not into it by the end of that time, I can stop. Nine times out of ten this does the trick and I’m suddenly on a roll. The length of time isn’t always 15 minutes. Sometimes it is longer depending on the task. If it’s something big like cleaning the house, I’ll give myself an hour. If it’s something smaller, like writing up a workshop handout, I’ll give myself 15 minutes.
At one point in time, a room in our basement had become a junk/storage room. I always felt bad when I walked by it. Also, my clients would walk by it, which was embarrassing. But the task seemed so daunting that I didn’t even know where to begin. I was getting into podcasts at the time, so I decided to use this new fun discovery. I would tell myself, “This podcast is one hour. Go down stairs and work on the basement for just an hour while you listen to the podcast, and then you can stop. The basement isn’t going to get done in a day anyway. So just do it an hour at a time.” This was the trick that worked. Slowly, over time, that basement did get cleaned out and organized. Now that room is our TV room, which is much nicer to walk by.
2-The “Add a Treat to the Task” Trick – Giving yourself a treat while you do the task will often make the task more enjoyable. For example, when sitting down to my computer to write, I’ll make myself a cup of tea. I rarely sit down to enjoy a cup of tea, so this makes the idea fun. Or, if I really need some encouragement, I’ll eat a snack while I work. Or I’ll say to myself, “Yes, you can pick up lunch on your way home, but you must do the computer work you are avoiding while you eat.”
The hour podcast trick I mentioned before is also a treat strategy. Now I use the hour podcast trick to work in the garden out front. I do not have a green thumb. This garden is basically a science experiment. I do not enjoy being in the sun. I do not enjoy pulling weeds. I do not enjoy bugs. I do, however, enjoy planting something and watching it grow. And I enjoy walking by it thinking, “Hey, it’s working!” Listening to a fun podcast makes the time go by faster. I enjoy the gardening much more.
3-The “Reward After” Trick – If I know I have something to look forward to afterwards, this is often motivation to get the task done. I might tell myself that after I’m done with the important task, I can watch an episode of whatever I’m watching at the time and not worry about anything else. Sometimes the reward is something that is already planned, but I know if I get a task done before hand, the reward will be that much sweeter. Maybe I’ll have a fun dinner and a movie date planned that night and use that as motivation to get something done first. I think this is one reason I like hiking. I enjoy the activity of walking in nature with a friend. But I’ll tell you what, that lunch afterwards is AMAZING!
Anyway, I learned this “the reward is sweeter after” experience after my first week of working full-time as a massage therapist.
Before I got a full-time job as a massage therapist at a chiropractic office, I was working part-time at my corporate job while I tried to grow my private massage practice. This wasn’t going as quickly as I wanted. So I would really only work three days at the unfulfilling corporate job and then have one or two massages scheduled over the next three days. Sundays I had off. So, basically, I was working three days a week in a miserable job. I took the leap and got a job at a chiropractic office full-time to make money while I built up my private practice. After my first week of massaging full-time, I was tired and happy. That weekend, this guy I was dating and I went down to Colorado Springs to watch a four-wheeling event. (He was really into four-wheeling, which is a complete other story in itself.) Anyhoo, I had such a good time because I felt like I had earned that weekend. I felt free. I felt alive. I felt happy. So, sometimes having something to look forward to after can make a difference.
That’s it. Those are all the tricks I have up my sleeve. But they work every time. Give them a try. Do you have tricks to overcome procrastination? I would love to hear them. I think we need all the tools in our tool box we can get to slay the procrastination monster. So, please, share your methods of overcoming procrastination in the comments below. Help us all slay the procrastination monster!
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