Two of the biggest causes of procrastination are the feeling of being overwhelmed by the size of a task and feeling completely underwhelmed by the amount of energy, motivation, or ambition we have to get that job done. Often, it’s a combination of both but either way procrastination can see us caught in a deep rut of inactivity, ineffectiveness, and non-productivity. The solution most often offered up is simple:
“A good start is half the job done.”
Anyone caught in the thick of a serious procrastination will understand that, down there in that rut, the prospect of getting a task started can seem as impossible as shifting a 1,000-tonne block of concrete. So, what should you do? Where should you start?
Forgive yourself for not “feeling it”
Lacking the motivation to complete a task shouldn’t prevent you from making any progress at all. Everyone has off days and it’s okay if you’ve woken up feeling unproductive. What is guaranteed to make things worse is if you become unhappy and disappointed because of your lack of energy and motivation. The harder you are on yourself, the more difficult it will be to make a comeback, so the first thing you should do is make peace with yourself. You’re far more likely to turn your day or week around if you can shift those heavy feelings of disappointment and self-loathing.
Break tasks down into more manageable bites
Whenever we start a task – whether it’s washing the dishes or writing up a report – we tend to attack it with the finish line firmly in mind. No one starts washing the dishes unless they intend on finishing the job, right, and if you don’t intend on finishing, why bother starting? It’s this damaging train of thought that tends to fuel procrastination and prevent us from even starting to take on more physically/emotionally/intellectually taxing tasks.
This is when you should take a step back and recalibrate your aim to focus on smaller, more achievable tasks. A university student doesn’t sit down to write a thesis with the goal of finishing that monumental undertaking in a single session. Rather, they break the process down into a swarm of smaller tasks and goals that, over the course of months or even years, culminate in a coherent and compelling research project.
Something is better than nothing
When you’re stuck in a rut of procrastination, getting something done (even if it is lower value than your main task) could give you the “oomph” you need to pull yourself out of that rut. Even if you don’t, you’ll still have accomplished something, which is better than nothing.
Remember, don’t focus on the finish line; just get something of value done that either contributes towards getting the whole job done or makes you feel better about yourself, such as taking a shower and getting dressed (even if you don’t plan on going anywhere) or cleaning out your desk and getting it organised. Once you’re moving, you may find yourself gaining momentum.
Mondays are for fresh starts
Failing these typical approaches to curing a serious bout of procrastination, remember that Mondays are for fresh starts and fresh starts are great for building momentum. Don’t be too hard on yourself for having an off day or an off week. Rather gear down for a bit, allow yourself a break, and then, come Monday, throw yourself into high gear again. Just spend a little time on Sunday planning an achievable task list so that you don’t find yourself dumped in the deep end on Monday.