Over the past two weeks, I have been attending a group class on self-management. There are several elements to this course, including: self care, positive thinking, conquering irrational thoughts and beliefs, procrastination, time management.
I have already felt the benefits from this course. I want to share some of the skills we’ve been learning and will divide my blog posts into separate sections. Let’s start with procrastination, as it’s the one I’ve been focusing on a lot today.
Ok, so I’m terrible at this. I will dust my room twice over, put on a load of washing, clean the sink (bathroom and kitchen), rearrange my bookshelf, pace around the flat with several cups of tea…and then sit down to do some work. And even then, I’m thinking about what’s for dinner that evening, or what I’m doing at the weekend (even when it’s Monday morning). The following tips have been particularly helpful for me.
- Think “the three minute rule”. What does this mean? Well, it’s sort of like a personal challenge to see how much you can achieve in three minutes. After a coffee or two, this can actually be a good kickstart to a day of productivity. It is often the ‘getting started’ which can act as the greatest barrier to getting on with whatever task lined up, so this can sometimes help alleviate that mental block.
- Make sure you give yourself frequent ‘treats’. And no, this doesn’t mean having a chocolate bar several times a day. Instead, set yourself a time frame of, say, 20 minutes, and after this time has elapsed, take a break: go for a walk, make a cup of tea, have a snack, browse for some Black Friday bargains (ahem). After this ‘treat’, tackle another 20 minutes of your task. Make sure you don’t keep going after those 20 minutes, as you’ll likely burn yourself out and feel discouraged to continue. As you practice this, you might be able to stretch out your tasks to 30 minutes; treat; 30 minutes; treat.
- When you think “I must do that [insert slightly dull task]”… just DO IT NOW! With some tasks, such as housework or filing two months’ worth of paperwork, there will never be a time you are in the mood for doing it. So just do it. It might only take 10 minutes. It might take one hour. But think of the satisfaction you’ll feel afterwards.
- Write a list of pros and cons for procrastinating. Whilst there’s a sense of irony in procrastinating about a task by writing a list about procrastinating, it might help you to look at the reasons that hold you back from getting underway with an activity.
- Visualise yourself completing the task. Or imagine yourself getting on with the task. This mental imagery can actually set your mind at ease and free up some of the resistance your mind may feel towards starting a particular task.
- Finally, if you’re putting off a particular task for a given set of time, ask yourself why: “Am I afraid I’ll fail?” “Is it that I really don’t want to do this?” “Am I too overloaded with other tasks and can’t think in any sequential order?”
Procrastination is incredibly common. Whilst we think that our colleagues are drafting the next edition of War and Peace as they tap away frantically on their keyboards, this doesn’t mean they keep up the pace all day; or even that they are typing something work-related at all! It could be a letter of complaint to Cadbury for failing to include enough Creme Egg choccies in their boxes of Miniature Heroes… doubtful, but who knows!
I’ll leave with a final thought. Comparing our procrastinating self to the apparently productive facade of others is also unhelpful for our self-esteem. By expecting others to be doing more, achieving more, and ultimately succeeding more, we have led ourselves towards a downward trajectory of unhappiness and low enthusiasm to even get started on a task. I will speak more on this in my next post.
Good luck with these tips, and let me know if any of them help!