8 great ways to stop procrastinating

Holiday cards…

Handmade gifts…

Weekly menus for healthy eating…

Be honest. Are you procrastinating on these kinds of things right now? (It’s okay – we all do it from time to time).

Procrastination torpedoes productivity, harms your self-esteem and is the source of massive amounts of stress. So why do we I do it and why, oh why, is it so hard to overcome?

As a writer, procrastination is part of my daily equation.

“Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.” — Gene Fowler

Perhaps that’s why I love laundry so much. It’s the perfect, bite-sized diversion from the tyranny of a blank page. Plus it makes me feel productive.

Regardless of what you do, procrastination haunts most of us.

Social scientist, professor and author of the marvelous book The Procrastination Equation by Piers Steel, PhD, explains that procrastination occurs when our logical planning brain, the prefrontal cortex, has made an intention to do something in the future (say, make a menu for the week or get a head start on handmade Holiday gifts) but that plan gets overridden by our more powerful, impulsive and emotional brain, the limbic system, because it has a competing desire (say, the latest reunion episode of New Jersey Housewives).

Given the strength of the emotional brain, it’s worth having a few tricks up your sleeve to hold your impulses at bay. In that spirit, I’ve pulled together eight effective strategies for avoiding procrastination.

Procrastination tip: turn off your phone and computer alerts
There's nothing like a "ding" from your phone to distract you from what you need to be doing. Do yourself a favor and turn off those distracting alarms. Your productivity will skyrocket
Procrastination tip: detox your environment
Messy desks and rooms offer a compelling distraction. Set up a routine, a set time and day once a week, to give your environment a clean-sweep. The less mess you have around you, the greater the chances you will be able to concentrate.
Procrastination tip: interrupt your pattern
Place a physical “impulse interrupter” on procrastination devices, like TVs and game consoles. For example, a photo box or book on top of the TV to represent the photo project you need to complete.
Procrastination tip: set an egg timer
In many instances our brains overestimate the amount of time it will take to complete a task. Set your egg timer or the timer on your smart phone for a specific amount of time, and see if you can “beat the clock.” The timer increases the urgency you feel to get the work done.
Procrastination tip: stand up & breathe
Shallow breathing and/or holding your breath, both of which people are likely to do when watching TV or while hunched over a computer, triggers your body’s fight or flight reflex and effectively shuts down your prefrontal cortex. To put your long-term planning brain back in business, take a few minutes and do some breathing exercises like 4-in, 7-out, 8-in.
Procrastination tip: have a buddy you can call
Sometimes you simply need someone you can call when you are having a weak moment. Ask a conscientious friend or family member if you can call them when you feel yourself heading down procrastination highway or before you start to work on a big, important task. The act of reaching out itself actually puts a stop to your procrastination doom-loop and the ensuing quick pep talk is likely to increase your motivation levels – both of which increase your chances of being productive.
Procrastination tip: develop & repeat an if-then statement
Emerging research shows that simple if-then statements are very effective at helping you follow through on your good intentions. For example, if you have to get a writing project done, create a statement that says, “If I find myself procrastinating by ___(pick your most frequent poison), then I will stand up, do a series of deep breathing exercises and turn my attention to ___ (the task I was putting off). Repeat it to yourself out loud on a regular basis.
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What are you procrastinating right now & and what do you procrastinate most often?