When I first confessed I was a natural procrastinator, my sister didn’t believe me.
“There’s no way.” She scoffed. “You’re an ENTJ Upholder!” While I am very Type A, it’s not just “who I am”. It’s in spite of who I am! I am a procrastinator through and through. I’ll put off necessary projects with small, insignificant tasks. Being a procrastinator takes a different form with my personality, but is no less procrastination!
The fact that I now get more done than ever before (even as a work from home mom) proves that even a procrastinator can be productive. Below are three important things to do to overcome procrastination.
Productivity springs from a good deal of self reflection. You have to know yourself. For natural procrastinators knowing yourself means knowing the when, where, and how of your task evasion.
For example: I tend to procrastinate when Adeline lays down for her nap, which also happens to be the best time for me to get writing and big projects done. I am more likely to procrastinate where there are small tasks or distractions (such as my phone) present. And how I procrastinate is by organizing my house when it doesn’t need it, picking up toys that could wait until later, cooking something I don’t need to eat, or checking social media for the umpteenth time.
Take a step back and ask these questions:
- WHEN in my day do I procrastinate?
- WHAT am I procrastinating on?
- WHERE do I tend to go when I’m evading tasks?
- HOW do I procrastinate? What am I doing when I put off tasks?
Once you know your answers, you know more about yourself. You know your weak areas. Becoming productive will never come naturally. It is an exercise in disciplining away the weakness and disciplining in the strength.
Take the answers to your questions and make a plan. Let’s say you procrastinate in the morning (when) before your work out (what). You tend to lounge in your room (where) looking at your emails, which you won’t answer anyway (how). Here’s a potential solution:
- Create a step by step plan for your mornings which does NOT include your phone. Know exactly what you’ll do in the morning when you go to bed. Leaving room in your schedule the night before gives you opportunity to “decide” what you want to do in the morning, which will almost always result in procrastination.
- Give yourself reasons to look forward to your work out (or task in question). Pair it with something you enjoy.
- Get OUT of your room ASAP and close the door behind you.
- Turn off your phone (don’t use it as an alarm in the morning). Keep it off until after your work out.
You can do this with any task that you put off, just tweak it for the specific situation. But remember: self reflection is key. Do it right now! Write down your answers to the questions and start making a plan.
Now. Not later.
Recognize Your Loopholes
All of us have favorite “loopholes” we use to evade tasks we don’t like. I hate cleaning the bathroom, and my loopholes are any of the following:
- I’ll do it when the baby gets up, she can help me (even though it’s harder with her there).
- I can’t do the bathroom because I need to write this article (I have plenty of time left in the day for that).
- I’m hungry. I can’t clean on an empty stomach! (False.)
- I deserve coffee for all the work I did this morning. I’ll have coffee AND THEN clean the bathroom.
- People need me.
Because I know myself, I realize that these aren’t valid thoughts – they are excuses. Take the time to recognize your thoughts (you should be doing this anyway on a spiritual level; not every thought you have should be embraced as true!). Really think through why you’re evading the task, and take note of the loopholes you continually use.
My loopholes usually use false “productivity” as an excuse to skip a task. I’ll do lots of little, fun tasks instead of the one nasty one that needs to be done. Here’s how I counter these loopholes when laziness tries to convince me to procrastinate:
- Preach the truth to yourself. “No, it WON’T be easier with the baby, and you DON’T need to write that article.” Sometimes I say this out loud! I give myself some “tough love” and say the facts: the urgent tasks usually aren’t urgent. They are avoidance.
- Use the strategy of pairing. I hate cleaning the bathroom, but I love podcasts (even my own, haha). If I can catch up on my favorite episodes while I work, I’m much more likely to do a task I hate – and it takes far less time than expected.
- Eat the frog, slay the dragon. Do the hardest task first. Just do it. You know that feeling when you’re sitting on the couch and it feels so good you don’t want to get up? It’s right at that point that I physically FORCE myself to get up. Just do it. You have the strength – don’t let your mind tell you otherwise. After all, you are in command of your body!
- Only give yourself rewards after the hard task is done. Inside each of us is an undisciplined child. Would you give a naughty child a reward for misbehavior? I hope not! Neither should you reward yourself for a job half done (or not done at all). Rewards should only be given when you actually do the hardest task.
- Set boundaries. People respect “no”. Using their “need” for you as an excuse to put something off is, well, a lie – so be sure they actually need you and that you’ve set structured boundaries before using that need as an excuse.
Just Do It
I already said this but I’ll say it again: overcoming procrastination often comes down to just doing it. You have to say no to laziness and do the hard thing! But as you make this a practice, it becomes easier. You start to see the reward in getting things done immediately – less anxiety, more time to relax and do things you love with complete focus, and more time with loved ones. Procrastination is your enemy, not your friend. It feels good at the time, but it will hurt your life.
Take it from a natural procrastinator: you can overcome this. It will be a daily battle for most of your life, but you can train yourself to be the victor. As you do, you’ll find yourself a more effective disciple of Christ, a more available friend and spouse, and a more present and patient mother.
Sincerely, your friendly procrastinator: