Benjamin Franklin once said, “Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.” While this advice sounds simple and obvious in theory, every professional has experienced the crippling effects of procrastination at one point or another. According to Psychology Today, 20 percent of people are chronic procrastinators, avoiding difficult or unpleasant tasks in favor of distractions.
Conquering the temptation to avoid the task that really needs to get done can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be if you approach it with the right mindset. Creating an optimized morning routine is a great place to start, because we all know the difference getting off on the right foot versus the wrong one can have on an entire day.
Here are four more ways to kick procrastination to the curb once and for all:
Boost Subjective Value
The psychological roots of procrastination have to do with value: how much value does completing a certain task have for you? If you value another task more highly, procrastination kicks in, and you do that task instead.
Reframe this dilemma by giving your To Do item more subjective value. Remind yourself why this task is important in the big picture. How does the task connect to your core work values? Visualize how achieving this task will move you closer to your dream job or career. Focus on how good you’ll feel when you check this task off your To Do list.
Alternately, you can try devaluing the distraction that is tempting you to procrastinate in the first place. Channel surfing on tv or clicking around randomly online? Use your tv time as a reward for completing the task, or try an app like Freedom that blocks internet usage for set intervals.
Break it Down
Often procrastination kicks in on projects that we feel are challenging or unpleasant (millions of people experience this around tax season). This ties into the notion that the harder a task, the more the doer has to gain by doing something else instead. This economic principle of opportunity costs is what makes tackling that hard task feel like a loss.
You can overcome this aspect of procrastination by breaking the project down into more manageable chunks. Slow and steady progress on a large task is much more effective than putting it off until the deadline looms and cripples your motivation further. The Pomodoro Technique is a great way to help you break up a huge task into manageable segments.
Eat a Frog
Mark Twain once said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” Twain is really saying to tackle your biggest tasks early in the day, before you run out of willpower, and before the day’s distractions come knocking. Willpower is a muscle that needs to be exercised regularly, and just as your body feels refreshed after a good night’s sleep, your mind is more likely to be sharp and focused in the morning.
Before you can get distracted by emails, meetings and everything else your workday might bring, work on the one thing that is most important for you to accomplish on a given day. At the end of the day, write down tomorrow’s frog, so you’ll see it right when you get into the office.
Overcoming procrastination is all about creating new routines and building on positive momentum. By just getting started on a difficult task, you’re already a huge step closer to completing the project and kicking procrastination to the curb.