Working in a highly-paced business environment can be tough. Sometimes, we all experience an irresistible urge to sit in a calm place and postpone tasks for as long as humanly possible. That’s called procrastination and it can get the better of anyone.
First of all, let’s start with the fact that procrastination is actually a normal state of mind. It even has a scientific name—time-inconsistency preference. In a nutshell, it’s hard for us to embrace the fact that we need to do something now to reap the rewards later. Everyone would like it to be vice versa and receive something worthy before the hard effort’s put in. It’s a biological mechanism of adaptation that urges us to take more today and pay the price later… or even never. And when we can’t have it, we start procrastinating.
One of Beetroot’s Full-stack developers, Back-end teacher, freelancer and entrepreneur, Ivan Karabadzhak, spent some time upgrading his knowledge in time-management. “Some people think that motivation is the best remedy to alleviate procrastination, but it’s not. Motivation comes and goes. Sometimes it comes when you don’t need it. Sometimes it lasts for too long resulting in a burnout. Anyway, you can’t schedule motivation for 5 working days and then turn it off for the weekend. If you want to get things done, your better bet is on discipline”.
We’ve crammed together a bunch of scientifically proven tips to help you become more disciplined and procrastinate less.
Five Minutes Miracle
Let’s say you plan to learn Mandarin. Good for you, but where do you start? It’s a time-consuming project which you definitely can’t accomplish during your lunch hour. But what you can do is to spend five minutes on googling your nearest Mandarin class. Scientists say that if you devote five minutes of your time to working on something, there is a good chance that you’ll keep doing it afterwards. It’s called The Zeigarnikeffect. According to it, we are more likely to roll back to uncompleted tasks rather than to start new ones from scratch. Simply put, by taking one baby step towards a sizeable project and your chances of coming back to finish it are amplified.
One of Beetroot’s illustrators and freelancers, Svetlana Akatieva sometimes experiences urges of procrastination, when running out of creative ideas or having too much on her plate. To remain in the industry’s top ranks, she’s worked hard to find the best techniques to beat procrastination. “There is a joke that pops up in my mind whenever someone mentions procrastination. How do you eat an elephant? Cut it in pieces, of course. It’s basically what you do with huge projects—divide them until their size doesn’t scare you any longer”.
Think of a reward
According to a study in The Neuron Journal, immediate and positive rewards help our brains create habits faster. Using the same example as learning Mandarin, the benefits from completing this task are not imminent. But if you’re searching to enjoy them in the future, you should make a deal with your brain today. For instance, reward yourself with finger-licking Peking duck every time you make it to the lesson.
Svetlana thinks that sometimes rewards can take even more unconventional shapes. “Whenever I find myself on the edge of procrastination I look through all the cool stuff that was made before me on the piece I’m working on. It wakes up my competitive self. I start to think that maybe I can do something worthy, something better. For me, making art that stands alongside those works that inspire me is a very strong reward”.
Understand the reason for postponing the task
Here is a typical picture. You have a lot of important things to do but instead you’re sitting on your sofa watching another episode of Game of Thrones. None of the above methods are working for you. Ivan thinks that this is the moment when you should dig deeper into the reasons for your procrastination.
“Every time you postpone an important task, ask yourself—why am I procrastinating? It could be the task is too complicated or incomprehensible. If this is the case, you should get a mentor, ask for advice or do whatever it takes to make the task understandable and affordable. Also consider whether the task is actually of any importance”.
Don’t put too much on your plate
Look carefully through your to-do list. How many tasks do you have there? Dozens, probably. And how many of them do you really need in your life?
By throwing yourself into too many directions you can make your procrastination even worse. You build up an atmosphere of constant pressure around yourself. As a result, your motivation tapers off and you can’t concentrate on things you really need to do. But if you get rid of the mediocre, unimportant things, your confidence and desires to work will increase slowly and steadily.