The old adage states that one should never leave anything for tomorrow if it can be done today. But, and let’s be perfectly honest about this, most of us would rather take the words of Mark Twain to heart, and not put off ‘til tomorrow what may just as well be done the day after tomorrow.
Procrastination is a disease of the modern age. At a time in our history where everything is immediately available, it is especially difficult to prioritise and avoid putting off things that are, in fact, the most important at any given time.
However, we have at our disposal the means to manage the most valuable commodity any of us will ever possess; our time.
Here’s the thing, though, Procrastinator: I know you because I am you. You are most likely reading this to put off doing something else, all the while pretending that you’re gathering knowledge. This is how you justify putting off what you’re actually supposed to be doing. It’s not justifiable, so I’ll keep it short.
There are, in essence, three basic things you can easily incorporate into your daily life to stop being the person who is always busy with something, but never quite done with anything.
1. Get listy
Maybe making lists is not really your style, and you prefer letting life happen. But to beat procrastination you have to start planning. It’s not high school anymore, and you have much more to juggle than a few classes, homework, extra murals and movies at the mall.
And these are things of consequence: taxes, car payments, performance based awards and buying milk, because you want your coffee tomorrow morning.
Prioritise. What needs to be done first? There will always be things that need your attention, so list them in order of the most immediate importance.
Physically write down your “to-do list” with a pen in a diary; a reminder on your phone might be misinterpreted for a request to play Candy Crush on Facebook.
Plan your weeks in advance, and everything might not seem so daunting and insurmountable. Now just stick to your plans.
But, most importantly, don’t ever forget that the important people in your life add the most value to it. Remember to schedule them, too.
2. Eliminate temptation
When there’s work to be done, close your internet browser and use the Pomodoro method; stick to it for at least a solid 25 minutes, then take a five minute break and continue.
Switch your phone to silent and ignore all WhatsApp messages and social media notifications, more often than not, those can wait for 25 minutes.
Focus your attention on the task at hand and nothing else. Our attention span has adjusted to society’s instant coffee culture, having adapted over the years, but we are all creatures of habit and we can train ourselves to be more mindful of what we are doing at any given moment.
This is a skill that is not only beneficial in a professional context, but even more so when it comes to personal relations. Your future spouse will thank you for paying attention.
3. Reward yourself for a job well done
It started when the dentist gave you a lollipop for sitting quietly while he poked around in your mouth. These days, your boss calls it an “incentive” and dangles it in front of you like a carrot in front of a donkey. You probably trained your dog this way.
It’s simple, and probably refutes that part of you that still believes true motivation comes from within, but rewards are sure-fire, simple ways to get people (including yourself) to do stuff.
Use your five minute break to do something you enjoy. Pet your cat. Have a cup of tea. Take a quick walk outside and notice the serenity that the city holds.
If you absolutely must, upload a motivational poster to Facebook to inspire all the other attention deficient procrastinators in your life (there are many, I can guarantee it) to action.
Online you will find a multitude of tips on how to stop procrastinating. Here’s another one: stop Googling “how to stop procrastinating”. Stop reading this. Go do something.