April 8, 2021

Simple Ways to Win Over Procrastination


Posted by Sharmarke Hujale


4 min read

You know the feeling of sitting behind the screen and thinking to yourself—I will start the work, right after a video from YouTube?

Or the feeling of being on Facebook—constantly scrolling through our news feed—consuming content after content.

And all that, now you are ready to go. But there is just a problem. Now it feels daunting to start the tasks you were set out to do.

You would rather continue with whatever you were doing. It’s more comforting and less intimidating.

That’s how I feel at least.

By default, our brain wants what is comfortable and easy. It wants to do things that we are already used to doing.

It becomes harder to find the motivation to start the work. Just like writing this blog that I have procrastinated for some time.

But why is it hard to stay focused on doing the actual work that requires us to think, than to binge-watch a Netflix series for hours?

And when we procrastinate we feel unmotivated.
When we feel unmotivated, we lose time.
And when we lose time, we feel defeated.

You know the expression “Time is money”. One thing that we cannot get back. And it feels good when our time hasn’t been wasted.

So how can we stay focused to minimize procrastination and do the work?

The traditional to-do list 

Yes, as crazy as it sounds. A simple to-do list does wonder without you realizing it. From my personal experience if I don’t make a to-do list I will be all over the place, and do what’s easiest for me—watch a YouTube video.

You know the feeling when you can cross over the task. That's great and even motivates you to do more.

How many tasks to have on a list? Personally, I would start with three. In that way, I won’t feel overwhelmed by too many tasks at once.

And they don’t necessarily have to be big tasks. A simple one such as replying to a mail or reading 15 minutes of a book.

A simple to-do helps you to remember what you are going to do. We are humans after all, and we can forget.'

Time constraint your work 

If you feel like you are wasting too much time, and not really focusing on the work at hand.

A good way is to “force” yourself into doing the task is to use a time constraint.

Imagine, you are a fireman. You are called out to duty. You arrived at a house on fire. You don’t have as much time in your hand to save the people inside the house. What are you going to do?

Of course, you are prioritizing the lives of the people inside the house. You have no other option. Your focus is entirely there. There is no time to check the latest tweet on Twitter.

I know it’s a bit of an exaggerated analogy. But you could almost apply that sense of “danger” by time boxing everything if necessary.

For how long you ask per task?

Is up to you for how many minutes or hours. When it comes to small tasks such as reading or replying to emails I set between 15-30 minutes.

For bigger tasks, I use focus sprints which are 1 hour 30 minutes which usually is followed by a 20 minutes break.

The 5 second rule

You remember at the beginning of the blog when I talked about how daunting it is to start a task right after watching multiple videos or scrolling through social media? I won’t blame you if you don’t.

Perhaps you received a notification from a friend that you had to check and came back to continue the reading.  

But it is difficult. It’s a slow process. We would rather continue watching videos - for hours if possible.

There is one little, simple trick that I have learned that works every time. I do it when I want to start something immediately.

it’s called the 5-second rule. You start the countdown from 5 to 1. But there’s more to it.

You have to have a goal in mind—could be a task from your to-do list. And you get to 1 and say go, you have to physically do the activity within the 5 second to trick your brain.

Try it out in your process, and see how it feels and works.

If you are interested in learning more about the 5 second rule. You can read the article Why The 5 Second Rule Works: The Science Explained

Closing thoughts 

The three things that I have shared with you are techniques I have personally tried out. What I love about them is that they are simple. When I start to procrastinate I go back to these three things.

What I have shared may not be new to some of you. But we could always use a friendly reminder, right?

I would also love to hear what you have to say about it, and do you combat procrastinating differently?

Let’s learn from each other.

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