Procrastination is like a slot machine. Putting a few coins in sounds fun, but once you’re at it, you don’t stop. You start with an innocent 5-minute spell before realizing that your time and money are running away. To ward off the negative ramifications of work deferrals, here are 8 minimalist ways to overcome procrastination.
“Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future“, Seneca.
Let’s be honest, we’re all guilty of delaying important tasks in one way or another. A Facebook message here, a Youtube video there – and our 2 minutes of downtime turn into 2 hours.
This is why we need a proper anti-procrastination system in place. Once incorporated into our daily routines, these methods will automatize themselves.
The 2 recognitions
Countering the negative effects of procrastination starts with two simple realizations. Before you can fight the symptoms, your mind needs to comprehend the nature of your holdups.
Recognize that you are procrastinating
The first step toward overcoming procrastination is the pure recognition that you are dawdling and delaying crucial tasks.
Ask yourself the following: am I doing something of value right now? Do I have important tasks to complete? A well-structured to-do list always helps in defining urgent tasks.
Personally, I use a simple rule. When determining what I am doing right now, I look at my daily to-dos and ask myself whether I am actively advancing the closing of these projects. If not, I know that I am procrastinating and this leads me to recognition number 2.
Recognize why you are procrastinating
Is it out of pure laziness? Are you struggling to define essential and non-essential tasks? Are you distracted by social media or other futile activities?
All of these questions will help you identify the why of your procrastination. Once the why is clear, the remedies will also become more tangible. In short, the causes will determine the best antidotes.
8 minimalist ways to overcome procrastination
Once you have moved past the two recognitions, you’re halfway there. Knowing that you are putting things off and recognizing why will help you succeed in performing the following minimalist ways to overcome procrastination.
Step 1: Start your day with the most annoying or the most important task
Commencing your daily grind with the least appealing or the most important task is a powerful habit. Sometimes the most annoying task is also the most crucial. Accordingly, its prompt completion will kill two birds with one stone.
The anti-procrastination benefit is the following: we tend to procrastinate if the task in question is either annoying, uninspiring, or super-important. For the first two, we postpone it out of pure comfort.
Important tasks, on the other hand, make us nervous and thereby prone to leaving them for a “better moment”. In most cases, this better moment never comes.
By getting these to-dos out of the way before lunch, we leave less procrastination-furthering thoughts in our minds for the remainder of the day. This will have a positive effect in the grand scheme of our work ethics.
Step 2: Get your phone out of sight
The most effective minimalist ways to overcome procrastination certainly also include fending off digital distractions.
Leaving your phone somewhere you can’t reach it will reduce the risk of grabbing it every two seconds. Once it’s out of sight, you’ll be less inclined to check your messages, social media notifications, and emails on a constant basis.
Another fruitful anti-distraction habit is to put your phone into silent mode with one single exception: calls. This way, you’ll avoid irritating beeps but you’ll still be reachable if something important happens.
Because let’s be honest, if someone needs to reach you right now, they’re probably going to call anyway instead of waiting for your Whatsapp response.
Step 3: Visualize the tasks and clear your mind
Before starting your daily endeavors, have a clear plan in your mind on what you want to accomplish today.
Set out a schedule in your head and compliment this mental roster with your daily to-do list. Once you focus your thoughts on the fulfillment of those tasks, your mind will be less exposed to distractions.
Most of our work deferrals are rooted in short-term satisfaction through mundane distractions. Consequently, a precise mental road map is one of the most efficient minimalist ways to stop procrastinating.
Step 4: Set a time limit for specific tasks
The “block principle” is a hailed productivity technique and certainly also useful against procrastination.
By limiting the time you spend on a given task to one hour, for example, you minimize the cravings for momentary amusements. Your sub-conscience knows that after the hour mark is over, a short break will follow.
This will help you attain a practical sense of concentration and also lower the risk of attempting the next productivity killer: multitasking.
Step 5: Stop multi-tasking
Multi-tasking hampers your concentration and also increases the chances of putting things off.
By trying to do multiple things at the same time, you don’t allow your mind to focus all of its energy on one activity. Your brain will try to split its energy, concentration, and creativity across various tasks and the overall output will suffer.
Unable to pinpoint its attention, your mind is already set on dividing its receptiveness and thereby more prone to distractions – ie procrastinating factors.
Step 6: Promise yourself small rewards
Small rewards – like a cup of coffee or a soft drink – usually work as minimalist ways to overcome procrastination.
Once your mind knows your self-defined time cap and refrains from multi-tasking, the promise of small rewards at the end of the interval will add even more fuel to your anti-procrastination engine.
Small rewards, be it drinks or even 10 minutes of television peeping, act as incentives for our brain to continue focusing until we reach the end of our work session. This makes them simple yet powerful stimulants to get things done.
Step 7: Use productivity-furthering surroundings
While some people like to work in a mess of their own making, it is clear that a minimalist, decluttered workspace will avoid work-deferring minutiae.
Personally, I like to keep my desk as clutter-free as possible by leaving nothing but the absolute essentials on it. Everything else won’t be able to enter my field of vision – precluding visual distractions.
You might prefer decoration or ornamental tools on your desk. The fundamental challenge is to design your own anti-procrastination surroundings.
Once you’ve internalized the previous steps, setting up a minimalist workspace will further boost your productivity and leave procrastination very few chances to strike.
Step 8: Don’t go to bed before completing your daily to-do list
The final nail in the coffin of procrastination is the rule of staying awake until your to-do list is complete. Any proper night routine should include some sort of evaluation of your daily goals and achievements.
If staying up until you finish your tasks sounds too radical, set a percentage rule. Some people start with 70 or 80 percent of completed tasks before going to sleep and slowly work their way up to the full 100.
Whatever you choose, be sure to adopt anti-procrastination techniques throughout the day. If you manage to avert deferrals during the day, you won’t have to worry about finalizing stuff at night.
Useful links on minimalist ways to overcome procrastination
- more in the section “Work”
- more under the topic “Productivity”
- read 10 simple ways to instant productivity improvement