5 Tips to Keep Procrastination at Bay

5 Tips to Keep Procrastination at Bay

By Sylvia Luneau

It’s probably not very controversial to say that taking time off is more enjoyable when there are no unfinished tasks looming over your head. The relief and sense of accomplishment you get from finishing all of the items on your to-do list, can make even ordinary weekends and evenings more rejuvenating. How can you get your work done quicker in order to build toward a more balanced and joyful life? As we enter summer and the warm weather beckons, try incorporating these tips into your daily routine to keep procrastination at bay.

Keep in mind, not all of these tips will work for everyone, and not all tasks can be accomplished quickly. But try to center this thought: What can you do today, this moment, to lighten your load and stop feeling overwhelmed?

1. Chart your “To-Do” items differently.

Some people are list makers and NEED to physically write to-dos out, some make voice memos to themselves, and others type/scribble bulleted lists directly onto their calendar. You probably know what works best for you, but if you’re still figuring it out, try this. Break your to-dos into projects (Create newsletter, finish presentation for next week, clean bedroom, organize kitchen, etc.) and give each a separate page (hard or soft copy) with a title. Start listing out all of the individual things you need to do to get this project accomplished. Look through what you have written. What is something you feel like you want to do right now? Is there a smaller task that you can take on before 3 pm? Do it and then cross it out. Small steps can help a big task move forward. Be kind to yourself and remember that.

2. Twenty-minute sprints.

I’m sure you have seen this all over the internet for years. It’s ubiquitous because it works; I practice it regularly! When you have a task or a project that’s overwhelming, set a timer for 20 minutes and just GO. Twenty minutes is really not a lot of time – just long enough that you can dig in to what you are working on and push it forward, but short enough that you never lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel. If you feel great after 20 minutes, set the timer for another 20 and go for it. If you are constantly checking the timer and exhausted after 20 minutes are up, take a break and know that you moved the needle forward. 

3. Focus music.

Back in college, I was adamant that I could only study in silence. I simply could not understand people who studied at cafés; even the idea of music seemed distracting. I’ve opened my mind a little since then (thankfully in more areas than one), and now, when I need to get work done and want to accomplish a few twenty-minute sprints, I go to YouTube (or Spotify or Amazon Music) and search for “focus music”. This is a great relaxing tool that helps to keep your mind from wandering all over the place and lets you focus on the task in front of you. If you never have, you should try it out! Who knows, maybe like me, you don’t know what you’re missing out on!

4. Gratitudes.

Too many to-dos can change anyone’s energy—you can start to feel negative, overwhelmed, crushed by the weight of something that is due (or overdue). Start small with this. List five things that you are grateful for that are personal to you. The goal is to raise your vibration a bit, to praise yourself and what you do. Remember what you have overcome, what you HAVE done today or this week that was positive and productive. Anxiety can be paralyzing in “normal” times. And no one in the world is claiming that these are normal times. Be compassionate toward yourself and focus your energy on gratitude for what you have and what you ARE doing. Then, and only then, start charting your to-dos.

5. Allow yourself to take intentional breaks.

Do you want to escape to your kitchen/ balcony/ backyard instead of facing the work at hand? Give yourself permission to take a break when you need it (maybe after a few work sprints?). When taking a break, be specific and intentional about what it is: I will make iced green tea, I will walk around the block, or I will break for lunch after two twenty-minute sprints. Make sure to be deliberate about your break time. There is nothing worse or less rejuvenating than getting distracted scrolling through news or social media, and looking up twenty minutes later, realizing you’ve gotten nothing done and feel no more relaxed or prepared than you did before. Figure out what will make you feel refreshed. THEN: Say it. Write it. Do it.

The American work ethic is legendary (it’s often said that we “live to work”). People in Europe think that we are crazy (and not in a good way) for only having two weeks off a year. Imagine what they’d say if they knew that sometimes, we don’t even take that time off?

The expectation to work hard and play hard can be extremely draining and demanding. If you are prone to procrastination (seriously, is anyone NOT?), the pressure to get work done can be overwhelming. Add to that this American ideal of uber-productivity and a “work, work, work” mentality, and it’s hard not to feel the oppressive weight. 

Take a step back, celebrate what you have navigated, and let yourself feel accomplished. Then take it a step at a time. You can do this!

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