How to Avoid Procrastination: Strategies to Get Stuff Done
It’s 4:45 PM and you’re thinking about that colossal campaign you have due next week. The client is expecting you to conceptualize and design seven banner ads, four emails, and eight social posts. You should probably get started on that, search for some inspiration, create a project timeline, and ask any questions you may have. Sure! Seems like a great use of time before you leave for the day at 6 PM, so you open up Pinterest to find some inspiration, scroll for 3 seconds and…
Ohhhh wow! That recipe looks delicious.
Maybe you’ll meal prep that quinoa bowl for next week – but wait, is quinoa even healthy?
*You continue to read four different articles about what the benefits of quinoa are and why you should be eating it.*
Time passes from 4:45 PM to 6:13 PM before you even realize you never started on the campaign.
Does this ever happen to you? Procrastination is something that everyone in all different fields and professions face and once you begin to experience it, it can be difficult to shake off. So, how can you avoid procrastination? To conquer procrastination, it is essential to understand why you are procrastinating. From there, you can use the following strategies to beat procrastination before it gets the best of you.
Ask Yourself Why
It’s essential for us procrastinators to know that we AREN’T lazy, we can be and are productive workers and reliable performers. Many times when I realize that I am procrastinating, my mind starts to spin.
What’s wrong with me?
Why can’t I focus?
WHY AM I SUCH A PROCRASTINATOR?!
So how do we get out? First, we have to stop the negative self-talk and take a few minutes to analyze ourselves and ask questions.
Am I tired or hungry? Do I feel like the work that I’m going to produce won’t be good enough? Am I having a hard time figuring out where to start on a task?
When we take that time to analyze ourselves, we get to the root of why we are procrastinating. This is the most productive step in completing a project.
As a designer, it can be daunting to receive a considerable task and open a new, blank document – even though designing is something that I love to do. If I find myself staring at a blank screen, I remind myself that it’s best just to start somewhere.
I sketch out my ideas or put all the assets on my document even if they aren’t perfect yet. Small steps like this will dramatically increase your mood because you shift your focus from how daunting the task seems, to working on the job and avoiding negative self-talk.
Pay Attention to Your Environment
Occasionally I have tried to work at Starbucks, and I always wonder how people get anything done here. I look up to give my eyes a break and spend 30 seconds thinking of devouring that muffin I see in the food case. I end up listening to the various interviews occurring around me, coming up with my pick for the best candidate for who should be the newest barista.
When I realized that these distractions around me pushed me into a procrastination hole, I vowed to avoid working there. The noise and distractions are too much for me, but you might not react the same way.
What works best for me may not be the best for you, so take time to analyze how you work in various environmental factors. Ask yourself if you are in the best environment to get your work done, even if it’s not always the most fun.
You Are In Control of Your Thoughts
Tell yourself to not think about apples.
“Don’t think about apples. Don’t think about apples. Don’t think about apples.”
You’re thinking about apples now, aren’t you?
The harder that you try to not think about the apple, the more you will think about it. Next time that you’re trying to avoid thinking about something – shift your focus. If you’re trying to avoid being a perfectionist on your latest project, change how you are going to execute your task. Think about how accomplished you will feel when it’s finished. Now, you’re thinking of an action and redirecting your mind rather than avoiding the work.
You’re Not Perfect
Humans are inevitably imperfect, so avoid being a perfectionist. There’s a good chance that your first idea isn’t going to be the most successful (or be what you use in the end). That’s okay! It takes some trial and error to get it right.
Good ideas take time to come to fruition. You can always improve what you have done, but you can’t grow a project if you haven’t even started on it.
For all of my fellow procrastinators out there, I want to encourage you to watch a TED Talk that changed the way I viewed and understood procrastination. It’s called “Inside the Mind of the Master Procrastinator”. Speaker Tim Urban encourages procrastinators to think of where the habit stems from. He leaves us with this, “We need to think about what we’re really procrastinating on because everyone is procrastinating on something in life.” LET’S GET STUFF DONE TODAY!