You know that saying, I'll work on my procrastination, tomorrow? It's definitely applicable, right? In fact, as I'm writing this on procrastination right now, I have multiple tabs open on my computer, I just checked my phone, and I'm fighting off my brain telling me to grab another cup of coffee.
Call it a generational problem or a societal problem, but whatever it is, we all know procrastination is a tough beast to beat. Fortunately, it's possible to improve our sense of productivity and mental well-being. Let's get into what you need to know.
Productivity is a Muscle
Okay, no, it's not actually a muscle, but stick with this metaphor: if you can perceive productivity as a muscle, one that needs routine training, discipline, and movement, you can dispel the common myth that productivity is just this innate skill some people possess.
By nature, most of us tend to favor laziness. We like the path of least resistance, and we love taking shortcuts.
From now on, start reframing your thinking. Productivity needs to be "worked out" and "planned for," just like any other exercise or chore. Don't wait to be "motivated" to do it. Schedule your productivity, anyway.
Prioritize Your Tasks Daily
Most chronic procrastinators aren't lackluster employees. In fact, the opposite may be true. Some are so perfectionistic that they get in their own way when trying to accomplish a task. That's because they struggle to prioritize their tasks, resulting in excess work-related stress.
Here is a better system: every morning, write down every task you need to do that day. Highlight each task with a green, red, or yellow highlighter. Red represents the time-limited, ABSOLUTE must-dos, yellow represents the NEED to-dos (not time-limited), and green represents the want-to-dos.
Practice aligning your day to get as many "red" tasks done first. You'll notice that you likely have more time than you thought imaginable, and you'll quickly realize that it's not the end of the world if you don't get every single task done in a single day.
Find Your Process
Post-it notes. Large calendar planners. Cell phone apps. We all have a different process for how we best absorb and retain information. How one person stays organized may be helpful to you, but it may also be completely inefficient.
For example, I work best in the early morning. That's my brainpower zone, and that's when I tend to have the most "knowledge juice" to power through the day. By mid-afternoon, I start feeling the slump. However, we all have different bodily rhythms, and it's important for you to utilize the power of trial-and-error to discover the most efficient system.
Work in Spurts
Timing yourself may seem ridiculous, but don't knock it until you try it! Research shows that we do well working in spurts with regular, scheduled breaks.
If you really struggle with procrastination, it might be best to start with a manageable amount of time, such as 10 minutes, with a 5-minute break. The better you get at committing to your process, the easier it will be to find your "sweet spot" of work/rest time. For me, 40 minutes of "work" with 15 minutes of "break" helps me feel recharged.
Healing through procrastination doesn't happen overnight. Be kind to yourself. Trust your process and commit to the change. You're on your way to a more productive, saner life!
Nicole Arzt is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and professional freelance writer. She is passionate about helping people uncover and unleash their authentic selves (both in her therapy and written work). Nicole enjoys blogging about mental health, addiction, and self-esteem.