Let’s face it, we all have these unrealistic ideas on what our evening after work will look like. “I’m going to go home, clean the house, wash the dishes, do some laundry, hit the gym, make some dinner and read that book that’s been calling my name for weeks. Today is the day”. And then, reality strikes. You get home, you turn on your computer to turn on some tunes and before you know it, you’re suddenly on episode twenty-two of that show you’re now binge watching.
But I come bearing good news! Today I’m here to tell you why we procrastinate, how to stop it, and how to manage your time better once and for all!
As I was saying, I find myself procrastinating more often than not. As I’ve been studying on why I do this so often, a couple of people have really shed some light on my situation and I want to share this information with you as well!
So without further ado, let’s dive in.
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The Psychology Behind Procrastination
There may be a few contributing factors as to why we procrastinate. But procrastination is so much more complex than we might think it is. It’s not just being lazy or having poor time management skills. Let’s look at a few of the definitions of procrastination.
Every subfield of psychology has their own slight variation of the word. A Neuropsychologist may call it “A failure of executive function, or how you plan ahead and prioritize things”. A Social Psychologist might see it as a problem relating to emotional regulation or trying to avoid bad vibes or emotions like stress. While an Evolutionary Psychologist might believe it could be partly genetic.
But regardless of your per se definition, we all know it can have a negative effect on our success in life.
There was a research made in 2014 at the University of Colorado where they studied the DNA of fraternal and identical twins to compare and differentiate between similar and identical DNA, to see if procrastinating was actually in our evolutionary makeup. After developing a mathematical model to calculate whether or not procrastination is inherited, they found that procrastination actually could be caused by differences in genetic makeup.
But whether procrastination is part of our genetics or not, what we all want to know is, “Can we combat and overcome it or are we stuck with it forever?”. Well, I’ll let you guys know later. Just kidding. I’ve found some tips on how to overcome it!
How Can I Stop Procrastinating?
While doing some research online, I found that there are lots of different techniques and ways to overcome being a professional procrastinator. It can actually be quite overwhelming reading so many different articles and studies on procrastination. I’ll give you some of my favorite ways to stop procrastinating.
Whether it’s finishing that new design your creative director needs by yesterday, or starting an article on how not to procrastinate, you’re going to have to do it eventually. We constantly put things off so we don’t have to deal with the stress a task can bring on. Just because we choose to ignore the task and put it off longer, doesn’t make it go away. Future you will be thanking you for starting early and not cramming 48 hours of work into 2. (unless you work well under pressure, which is also a great incentive to get a move on)
Make a List
Take a minute, sit down, and write down all the things you need to accomplish. Maybe you want to make a list consisting of little daily goals, or maybe you need to write down tasks on your calendar for weeks in advance. But one thing I know for sure, making a list will definitely make you feel a sense of accomplishment.
Don’t Overthink It
Don’t overwhelm yourself. Set realistic goals for yourself and make habits of the little things. Try writing down a general thing that you need to do. You know exactly what you need to get done! If you start becoming too detailed, you’ll waste time by thinking you’re being productive, when really you could’ve already started your new project.
Try Starting With The Most Difficult Task
Look at your list and decide which task is going to take the most effort and time to complete. I’ve found that if a person completes a difficult task successfully, they’ll feel more empowered and competent to take on the simpler ones. It’s like defeating the Big Boss in a video game, knowing that you now can take on any of the mini-bosses in the remaining castles.
Don’t forget to take a break
It’s okay to take a break. You deserve it. Just be careful that you don’t fall right back into your old habits. Get up from your desk, get a coffee, go on a walk and enjoy the breeze outside. A study shows that your brain functions best in the first and last thirty minutes of any strenuous activity of the brain. So don’t go forcing yourself to exert all your brain power at one time.
Start Tracking Your Time
Making a conscious effort of tracking your time can be really difficult. The first time I used Toggl to track my time I forgot to stop the timer, so the project “send emails to bloggers” took about 28 hours. However, if you push yourself and make a habit out of it, time tracking can work for you really well.
Plan Visually on a Shared Calendar
Lastly, seeing your tasks on a timeline can give you a wider understanding of your project and ability to allocate your resources efficiently. Getting your team to use a shared calendar will keep your colleagues abreast with the latest changes and have a clear status over your team’s tasks. Now, I’m not just saying that because we developed, quite frankly, the best shared calendar out there, but because we are actually eating our own dog food.
Managing Your Time Efficiently
I couldn’t say enough that planning and list-making ahead of time can make your life so much easier. It gives you enough time to figure out what you’re going to do, how you’re going to do it, and when. And all the while, you can incorporate free time if you do it correctly! Follow through with your plans. Don’t feel bad about turning things down when you already have a lot on your plate. Prioritize what you need to do.
So whatever you’re procrastinating on right now while reading this article, I encourage you to stop what you’re doing and go start on it!
Andrei is a Growth Hacker on Teamweek's marketing team. He is the person behind most of Teamweek's SEO-driven projects, including the budget calculator and the worst productivity tips generator. He enjoys writing about project management, graphic design, and anything tech.