Guest post by John Holmes
Procrastination is an act that is fundamentally human. Putting off work for another day is something we are all experts at, a trait congealed in our psyches through years of practice and repetition. However, while the procrastinating appeals to our short term laziness, in the long term it generates anxiety, missed deadlines and poor quality of work. The following are five easy ways to beat the procrastination bug and get started on your current project:
1. Set Artificial Deadlines
The biggest contributor to procrastination is a lack of urgency. When a deadline is far away, time often appears boundless, and knowing that an assignment or task can be accomplished at some point in the distant future becomes a justifiable argument for not doing it today. Creating an artificial deadline days prior to the actual one can generate some of the urgency required to start working. Having a deadline in your rear view mirror forces your brain to compartmentalize the remaining time and set benchmarks for getting the work done. For more drastic measures, change the date on your calendar to emphasize that the deadline is nearing.
2. Consider the Health Effects
The desire to live is arguably the most powerful instinct we possess. Putting off work can not only produce poor quality work, but be a negative influence on your overall health. Individuals who rush through a job often confuse the relief of finishing a project with the euphoria of doing a good job. In fact, these two actions have biologically different agents, as the hormone cortisol is associated with relief whereas dopamine is the primary producer of pleasure. While relief may mimic pleasure, it is actually a byproduct of an accumulation of stress and anxiety. Wanting to improve your overall health can be a powerful motivator and an important consideration whenever you feel the serpentine whisper of procrastination tickling your ear.
3. Eliminate Distractions
This can be difficult in the modern age, when the same machines that we rely on to do our work are the primary source of entertainment. Unplugging your computer from the internet or setting a separate area for work can drastically increase your productivity. Studies have shown that even the mere sight of a briefcase can influence the brain into working harder. As a result, creating an environment conducive to working and more importantly, disassociated from the activities you do for pleasure can help your mind focus.
4. Work in Groups
Even if you have completely disparate projects, working in a group setting can help foster an atmosphere where procrastination is discouraged. The sense of responsibility each person has to the others in the group will trigger their sense of empathy and prevent people from slacking off. It is one thing to be responsible for one’s own failure to work, but procrastination becomes more difficult when others are at risk.
5. Break It Up
Another common cause of procrastination is poor conceptualization. Simply looking at a large project can often feel like scaling a towering mountain, and the sheer impossibility of it can dissuade us from making an effort. Rather than look at a project in its entirety, map the time remaining and break up each section of your project into doable chunks. By setting attainable, realistic goals from day to day, you will not only avoid procrastinating, but may find yourself pushing ahead of schedule.