Procrastinating may give you instant gratification of feeling good, but it does have long-term costs. You might think that you need to feel better in order to act. But research shows that your mood improves when you make progress on your goals. Visualize how you will feel when whatever task you attempt is finished.
Here’s a plan presented by Psychologies Magazine (June 2013, p. 69). The idea is to commit to one week of beating your procrastination demons, building those “just do it” muscles. Write a list of things you want to get done in seven days. Then break that list down into what you intend to do in seven daily power hours, following the five rules below.
1. Create doable goals that you can achieve in your power hour. You are more likely to do what you expect to succeed in. Experts say we sabotage ourselves when we set unrealistic goals.
2. Focus on the bigger picture. Make the link between getting your power- hour-to-do-list done and what it will mean to your life goals. For example: if I manage to write 500 words of my novel, I’m one step nearer to getting my novel published.
3. Say what you’ll do when. Research shows that the more concrete you can be about the exact actions you will take in the time slot that you commit to, the more likely you are to get things done and the less likely you are to procrastinate.
4. Create approach goals versus avoidance goals. Rather than finding ways to stop procrastination/lose weight/get out of debt, focus on doubling your productivity, boosting you energy levels by 50%, or saving $100 a month.
5. Don’t give in to feel good. Procrastinators avoid tasks because some tasks can create bad feelings such as anxiety, boredom or pain, so we give in to the impulse to walk away in order to feel good right now. Try to focus on the long-term benefits instead.
At the end of the power hour, ask yourself what worked and what didn’t, and why. If you had to tweak your strategy, what would the new strategy look like? Then create a list of jobs to do for the next day, asking what do you need to do the same or differently for this strategy to work better in your power hour.