We’re starting off this feature with a small physics lesson. Yes, stay tuned as it will all make sense! Newton’s First Law states that an object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an external force.
Translated into real life that means our bodies will stay at rest until they’re compelled to actually get their arses into gear! Basically, we’re all destined to be procrastinators, which is probably why it can feel so difficult sometimes to get a move on and tick off those tasks on our ever growing to do lists.
So, if you find yourself saying ‘I should’ a bit too often, then procrastination has got the better of you and you need these top tips…
Big tasks can feel so overwhelming, but it’s better to at least start something than just let it fester and get you annoyed. One of the best ways to beat procrastination is to say you’ll tackle something for five minutes.
Set a timer and just begin. Once the timer goes off, you can stop, but more than likely, you’ll find yourself absorbed with the task and carry on. Even if you do stop after five minutes, you’re more likely to go back and finish the task later as you’ve actually made a start on it.
Does your to do list get bigger and bigger every day? Then pick one thing from it and just do it. The joy you’ll feel from ticking it off the list can then often spur you on to the next thing. Perhaps start small though – filing away a few bills is more achievable than painting your bedroom. You can build up to those bigger tasks!
In other words, stop trying to be a perfectionist. Perfectionism sounds great but in reality, it can be disabling, stopping us even trying to do a task before we start. What counts is the effort you put into something, not the perfect end result.
Think of it this way… Your to do list is infinite. It will never end. Even when you die, there will still be things on that list you haven’t ticked off. So chill out, do what you can and stop letting the list overwhelm you.
If the task you have to do is herculean, such as sorting out your loft full of 30 years of stuff, you need to break it down. The thought of something so huge means you’ll never get it done, however, if you create smaller, more manageable steps, there’s a chance you will start it – even if it does take a few weeks to finish. So, with that big loft, your first step may be as small as literally going up there to look at everything followed by a second step of sorting out two boxes. Carry on that way and you’ll have your task done in no time.
We’re not saying you can’t take a day off and just chill, but it’s better to keep on top of things and do something small every day, rather than have a huge task staring at you come the weekend. This may mean, a quick 15-minute tidy every day or 5 minutes daily spent sorting out paperwork. Find out what your quick win is and do it. Not only will it make you feel more inspired, but you’ll also start ticking off that to do list much quicker.
Have you found that you deal with urgent tasks easily? Something that just HAS to get done, just gets done. A deadline can give you the push you need, but it doesn’t have to be something that is forced upon you.
One study conducted by Duke University, North Carolina showed that students setting their own deadlines, rather than their teacher, still kept to them.
The secret is to not to just write it down, but to also tell your family and friends about your deadline – that way you’re more accountable and therefore more likely to actually get it done.
Do you have more energy first thing in the morning? Or perhaps you’re more of a night owl? Work out when you’re feeling your best and use that time to do those things you’ve been putting off. When we’re feeling good, we have more energy to tackle tasks that are a bit more challenging.
Do you find yourself losing 15 minutes every day as you get lost down an Instagram hole? Instead of trying to avoid it, schedule in some time to do just that. Yep, every day at 3pm, allow yourself to scroll away to your hearts content, like some pictures of puppies, and then get on with the task at hand.
The One Thing, £7.64, Gary Keller
Get Your Sh!t Together, £11.99, Ruth Field
Atomic Habits, £14.99, James Clear