Hands up if you are a master procrastinator… now hands up if your procrastinating whilst reading this…
My hands are certainly up, in fact whilst “spending time” writing this blog I have scrolled on Facebook several times, sat next to people I know like to have a chat and done way more “research” than needed for this post. Pretty much everyone I know procrastinates, sometimes it’s fun to procrastinate. Sometimes waiting until just before your deadline is incredibly motivating. And sometimes procrastination is even necessary, a way to put off a foreboding task until you feel more energetic, prepared, or able to do it.
I recently watched a TED talk that massively resonated with me in regards to procrastination. Within the talk Tim Urban, talked about this idea of “the dark playground” within a procrastinators brain. “The Dark Playground is a place where leisure activities happen at times when leisure activities are not supposed to be happening and that we procrastinators know well”. However, he explains how “the fun you have in the Dark Playground isn’t actually fun because it’s completely unearned and the air is filled with guilt, anxiety, self-hatred, and dread”. You can feel the looming deadline drawing closer and know that your only making life harder for yourself by not starting.
The aim of this blog is to help you to enter “The Happy Playground”, this is a place where you feel “satisfaction and where leisure time is pleasant and rewarding because you have managed to complete a challenging task”. You may even be so immersed with what you’re working on that you lose track of time and the idea of continuing is more satisfying than procrastinating (rare I know).
Like most procrastinators I love planning, quite simply because planning doesn’t actually involve doing, and as a procrastinator, is there anything worse than doing? So here is my plan for sliding out of the dark playground.
1. Put your goal into writing
Write down the task that you have been or want to put off. Doing this will bring the project to the front of your mind so you can’t easily ignore it.
2. Name what drives you
According to psychologists, procrastination is an emotional reaction. There are usually three main driving factors. So working out what drives you can be critical to motivation. For example, it could be fear that you won’t get the job done well enough and on time that motivates you into action.
3. Break it down
You’ve envisioned the task and established what motivates you, now you need to break down the overall project into manageable smaller tasks. Make a detailed list of SMART targets such as how long you expect each step to take, where and when you’ll be working on them. This will help you to stay focused on the overall task without feeling overwhelmed or distracted.
4. Prepare for obstacles
Once you have broken the task down into smaller more manageable pieces, anticipate problems that could arise along the way. For example, stopping whatever you’re doing when it’s time to begin the task, putting away all distractions and for a procrastinator that means pretty much everything but what you need to get started, and then begin!
5. Fight the dark playground
Using certain techniques, such as leaving post-it notes for yourself, reminding you to make good choices, setting an alarm to remind yourself to start a task and minimising distractions by all means necessary will help you achieve your goal much more easily. Remove yourself from any environments you find distracting and eliminate potential interferences such as your TV or more importantly your mobile phone during work sessions.
6. Be mindful of the win
Finishing a daunting task can be massively rewarding. Remind yourself that you’ll feel incredibly satisfied when the task is off your plate once and for all. Accomplishing what you’re avoiding will simplify your work life. An added benefit is that you’ll feel more upbeat, less worried and stressed, and more confident about your reputation and effectiveness
Change doesn’t happen overnight, and if you have some deeper underlying reasons why you procrastinate, it may take longer to finally break the cycle. However, it is better to deal with it now than to deal with the negative consequences later on.