Stop procrastinating! If that didn’t work keep reading this blog post I guess. In order to learn how to stop procrastinating, you first have to learn to lie to yourself. After all isn’t that what procrastination is anyway? “I’m way too tired to possibly do that task,” “I HAVE to do x, y or z first.” Well that’s lying to yourself also. You’re just doing it poorly, and to your own detriment. Not that we don’t all do it. I choose those two examples because they are the ways my brain rationalizes procrastination.
How to Stop Procrastinating: A Story
Even now, but especially as a child, I hated sitting still, which was exacerbated when I was confined to a car. These days, when commuting home from work, I sometimes get off the train 10 minutes before my stop, knowing that same walk will take 30. I’d rather be outside moving than have my inner child screaming and fidgeting while trying to act like an adult on the Boston T.
Anyway, my father knew this and no matter what, no matter if it was the 50th time or the first, every time we were in the car and I asked him “How much longer?” he said, “Five minutes.” And I did ask every time, usually dozens of times each trip. He did this for years, and even after I caught on to his trick, it still worked. I knew no matter how long it was going to be, or how long it had been, he would still say, “Five minutes.” But I kept asking, because even though I knew it wasn’t actually going to take five minutes, it was easier to endure sitting still (well, fidgeting) in a car for long car trips if I let myself believe it was just five more minutes, then five more, then just five more. Try it next time your commuting. It’s a lot easier than 15 minutes.
The Takeaway: A Lesson in Personal Momentum
I’m not saying you should “pull up those bootstraps” and “stop being lazy,” or that you “need a reality check.” You don’t. You just need to fib to yourself, differently. Better.
Tell yourself you’re only going to read one page of that book, or just turn on the computer. Once you trick yourself into getting past that first hurdle, whatever you’re procrastinating gets a lot easier. This is all about momentum.
Set incremental milestones starting small, and convince yourself the first milestone is all you’re going to do. “I’m only going to work for 5 minutes … then just 5 minutes more.” Breaking the time into small goals like this can be a huge motivator. After all, that’s what we do when we procrastinate. “Just five more minutes of blank, and then I’ll really get to work.” How often do those five minutes stay just five minutes?
Well, you can use the same mental trick to get yourself to work. Keep reading. Just 5 more sentences to go from here!
If you can use the momentum of your own activities to drive you forward, rather than defaulting to the momentum of your inactivity, you’ll stop procrastinating and get the things you need to done.
How do you stop procrastinating? What tips do you have for boosting your own productivity? If you have the time, share your thoughts below.