Being busy has become the new norm. Most of us are busy most of the time – for reasons unknown. Well, we say that we are “working” on a project, or the day job, or something important. But if we dig deep and give a quick analysis, most of our “busy” time would just be “seemingly” busy.
Do we actually get the most out of our “busy” time? Let’s be honest. If we are actually getting a proper ROI of our busy time, we should have had most of our deadlines met, our projects completed and have almost no pressure due to piled up work.
Do you see the controversy?
Do you ever stare at a looming deadline, feeling a familiar dread wash over you? Do piles of unfinished tasks beckon you with their mocking silence, while you scroll through endless social media feeds or find yourself inexplicably cleaning the refrigerator for the third time?
There is hope!
First things first, it’s important to acknowledge the elephant in the room (or the endless Netflix queue). Procrastination is more than just laziness; it’s a complex interplay of fear, avoidance, and self-doubt.
It can be due to the following reasons:
- You want to avoid doing the hard things for now so you can enjoy some peace.
- The task you need to do is overwhelming – you need to collect more information, or do some preparatory work before doing the actual thing! And, you need more time for that.
- You don’t know how or where to start (you need to get yourself equipped, or need someone else’s help).
All of the above cases can be tackled. You don’t have to give yourself any of the above excuses to procrastinate! Let’s see how to tackle it!
Chunk it Down
This works best if reason number #2 above is your case.
Large tasks can feel daunting and paralyzing. Often, you would feel some fear or a sense of self-doubt when you attempt to work on something very big.
You might not have the confidence that you will start something big and finish it successfully. Or, you might feel that you won’t have the energy or interest to continue doing something big and finish it!
Here comes the solution! Break those big tasks down into smaller, more manageable steps.
The very first step to breaking big tasks into smaller ones is clarity. Without clarity, you won’t be able to make anything meaningful out of this process (of breaking the big task into small chunks).
First, your big/overwhelming task has to be clear, and to the point. A bad example is “Write a book”. This is too vague. It is not a precise task. Such a task is quite easy to look at as a rather “big” task, while in fact, if you write it down with clarity – it is much more easily manageable.
In this example, you should include the name of the book, with a deadline.
Now, the next step of splitting it into manageable bits is writing an outline for the book. Once you do it, you allocate a certain amount of time every day, or every week to get each of the chapters written. You start with ONE chapter, finish it and move on to the next. This way, the seemingly big task of writing a book becomes doable with a simple hack!
The “book” is just an example here – you can apply this idea to anything you find “big” and can’t start working on!
Distractions increase your work time – making you look busy, not just for others but to your own self! Let’s say you need some information to start working on a project. You go to look up that information in Google or YouTube.
If you manage to just do that and get back to work – awesome! But most times, that’s not the case. You could end up spending hours surfing through relevant and irrelevant information.
You could get distracted by one notification on your phone that leads to an avalanche of app hopping for hours.
You could get distracted by a “hi” from a co-worker and then end up in an elaborate conversation of various things about life, for hours together.
Distractions are everywhere and it is completely in your hands to safeguard your time from slipping through them.
Find your ideal distraction-free zone, be it a quiet corner with noise-cancelling headphones or a designated “work time” with your phone silenced.
Do whatever you can – even if it is an extreme action – to get things done.
This way, you save a lot of time, finish your work much earlier and you won’t “seem” busy 🙂
Set Realistic Goals
Setting unrealistic goals is a recipe for procrastination and disappointment. Yet, we all do that!
Sometimes, a failure could trigger you to set the next unrealistic goal in an attempt to overcome that “unsuccessful” feeling.
At other times, it could just be a pump of motivation (from inside or outside) that could trigger you to set unrealistic goals.
Aiming big is good, no doubt. But setting an unrealistic goal, or an action plan will burn you out in a jiffy. You will jump off the wagon very soon and before that you will just be busy.
This kind of busyness will get you nowhere. It will only leave you drained and frustrated.
Before setting any goal, make sure to bring in the various parameters of life and reality into the equation.
Embrace the Power of “Just Start”
This is quite a popular psychological thing. And it works like a charm every time I try it.
Often, we hesitate to start something and convince ourselves as if we are busy with something else. We just pick what’s easy, or comfortable, or enjoyable, and put off what’s hard, or uncomfortable, or unpleasant.
This way, we seem busy all the time to take up that important task! How lame 🙂
In fact, at the back of our mind, we know the importance of that pending task while we are putting off. However, we feel a strong resistance to taking up that task. Here’s a 100% working solution!
Commit to working for just 5 minutes. That initial momentum will often carry you forward, and you’ll find yourself lost in the task before you know it.
When you start this way, permit yourself to stop after 5 minutes, if you feel so. Most of the time, you will simply keep working past the 5 minutes, just like that.
Sometimes, since you have started working on it, and are into it already, you might not want to stop. And sometimes, you would feel bad to leave something hanging by the thread and decide to finish it anyway.
The thing is – that initial resistance you had before starting would have disappeared after 5 minutes – this is the key!
And, in the worst case, even if you decide to stop after 5 minutes, taking up this “started” task the next time will be a lot easier to take up a completely fresh task.
This classical piece of advice works with many things in the real world. And yes, it works great if you want to speed things up and stop looking busy.
Tie in small rewards for finishing objectives, like enjoying a cup of coffee, taking a walk, or watching an episode of your favourite show.
Rewarding yourself is like the thrust that’s given to a rocket to propel forward. Rewards get things move faster than normal.
When things speed up, they get done faster and you don’t have to look busy.
We all procrastinate sometimes. It’s okay to be kind to yourself, avoid negative self-talk, and learn from your slip-ups.
The kinder you are to yourself, the easier it will be to get the most from yourself.
With each stagnation or resistance, you learn something. You find out what’s stopping you from doing something, what’s causing that drag and where your time is going. And then, improvise. Keep doing this and you will easily overcome procrastination.
Remember, procrastination may be your nemesis, but you hold the power to become its master. So, take a deep breath, silence those notifications, and step onto the path towards a more productive and fulfilling future!