No one has a solution, but in this guide proposed by Quartz you will find some tricks that, to try to reduce the habit of procrastination, also seem to investigate between in depth reasons for this “habit” (such as fear, self-deception and some automatic mechanisms).
1. DO THE FIRST STEP. You have chosen to read this article immediately instead of saving it as a favorite, to address it “later”. Congratulations! You already know the first move to beat the tendency to procrastinate: to establish a minimum threshold, so low that even the laziest part of you will have nothing to object.
Tim Pychyl, who is doing research on procrastination at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, tested this approach on a group of students, and found that when they started a task, they found it less stressful and difficult, even more pleasant, than before starting it. “They said things like” I don’t know why he put it off, it’s not so bad “and even” I could have done a better job if I had started earlier “, he reports. So if you have to work on an email you postponed for a long time, try to force yourself to turn on at least the computer: to do it will gratify you enough to make you continue.
2. RECOGNIZE THE REASONS FOR WHICH YOU PROPOSED. Often delaying is not just a matter of organizing time, but a way of regulating deeper emotions: an unwelcome task, the fear of failure, questions of self-esteem.
In some of those cases it happens that we are convinced of “not being in the right mood” to do something just because we don’t have the tools to deal with entrenched fears. Giving a name to the emotion behind the need to procrastinate can help to face it (if needed, with the help of a psychotherapist). Even reformulating, that is, reviewing the way in which a situation is perceived, can help to face it rather than avoid it.
Often procrastination is not a habit that has strictly to do with time management, but hides deeper discomforts.
3. WHAT KIND OF DELAY IS IT? Fighting an enemy with uncertain and blurred contours is difficult: start classifying the type of procrastination you are victim of.
– inevitable: because you are full of commitments, or because you have to put everything aside to deal with a more urgent crisis (a family member to assist, a work emergency);
– from arousal: many people work better when they are under pressure, and postpone a task until the end for this reason;
– hedonistic: first the pleasure, then the duty. These are the delays motivated by the choice to immediately gratify and postpone the tasks;
– due to psychological problems: you are blocked by another acute condition (like a grief) or chronic (panic attacks, depression …);
– intentional: they are not real procrastinations. Rather, you are taking time to think before writing, for example;
– irrational: these are the true forms of procrastination, without any apparent reason and motivated by fear or anxiety.
These types are not mutually exclusive and are not necessarily to be fought. Many geniuses of the past – such as Leonardo Da Vinci, who had the reputation of not finishing what he had started – found forms of procrastination congenial to their own creativity: they learned to live with inertia, exploiting it to their advantage.
4. LEARN THE ART OF PROCRASTINATION. If we were born to postpone, why not take advantage of it? In 1996 John Perry, a professor of philosophy at Stanford University, coined the term “structured procrastination” to indicate a tactic that exploits the inveterate procrastinator’s weaknesses to force him to complete something.
The trick is to put at the top of the list of things to do the most important tasks – which we will tend to avoid anyway – and fill the other items with less important but still useful duties. Be assured that you will not start that presentation anyway: but instead of getting stuck on the couch in the grip of starvation, maybe you will clean up the desk, you will catch up with the accounting or you will answer a couple of emails.
5. BE KIND OF THE “YOURSELF” OF THE FUTURE. Human beings have an extraordinary imaginative capacity and can easily project themselves into the past or the future. Experts suggest to use it to “meet” themselves tomorrow and imagine their possibilities with realism.
In fact, we often procrastinate convinced that in the future we will be more energetic, more resolute and with fewer problems: these expectations are not realistic – we cannot change so much in a reasonable period of time. Eve-Marie Blouin-Hudon, psychologist at Carleton University (Canada), suggests 10 minutes of visualization of the self of the future: how will you be dressed? What mood will you be? What will you write in that email?
Perhaps none of this is so different from what you could do today.
Don’t make a commitment to yourself by thinking that in the future you will be at your best to do it: these expectations are not realistic.
6. CREATE EMERGENCY PLANS OR PREVENT ATTEMPTS. There will always be a setback that leads you to think “to hell, I’ll do it tomorrow!” Let’s say you promised yourself to go to the office with the bike and that, just as you open the garage door, it starts to rain. And if instead of letting go of good intentions, you thought about how good a ride would make you feel?
Psychologists call this technique “if, then”: it is a way of elaborating “emergency plans” that seems to work because it proposes specific actions – “if I go to the office pedaling, then I will feel trained all day” sounds better than a generic ” I have to go to the office by bike “.
Another easy trick is to prevent risk situations. If a cell phone vibration is enough to distract you from work and push you to procrastinate, put it mute. If you know that that colleague suppresses your desire to do, avoid it. It seems obvious, but for many it is not.
7. DON’T THROW DOWN. When the procrastinator is afraid or feels guilty, he is not only criticizing the current hesitation, but also all the past ones: an emotional guano that is difficult to get out of. Try to address yourself with the kindness you would use towards a friend. You could tell yourself, without lying, that you are not the first to procrastinate, nor will you be the last. Using a little indulgence towards past situations will help you reduce the amount of uncertainty that is blocking you, and concentrate on the current problem.