“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
Did you ever find yourself facing an important assignment, but somehow you just couldn’t get yourself motivated to start working on it? Time goes by, days turn into weeks, but you don’t seem to be any closer to getting the job done? You are hardly alone. We all know what it’s like to procrastinate, and for some of us, it’s become something of a way of life. But procrastination comes at a great cost: It leads to poor performance, inefficiency, anxiety, and regret. So if you find yourself having trouble getting started, try using these scientifically proven strategies to give yourself a much-needed kick in the pants.
1. Stop Relying on Willpower
Too often, we try to tackle the problem of procrastinating through sheer will: Next time, I will make myself start working on this sooner. Of course, if we actually had the willpower to do that, we would never have procrastinated in the first place. Studies show that people routinely overestimate their capacity for self-control and rely on it too often to keep them out of hot water.
Make peace with the fact that your willpower is limited and that it may not always be up to the challenge of getting you to do things you find difficult, tedious, or anxiety provoking. Instead, use if-then planning to get the job done.
Making an if-then plan is more than just deciding what specific steps you need to take to complete a project; it’s also deciding where and when you will take them.
If I have not heard back from HR by the end of the day, then I will call them at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.
If it is 2:00 p.m., then I will stop what I’m doing and start work on the report Bob asked for.
If my boss doesn’t mention my request for a raise at our meeting, then I will bring it up again before the meeting ends.
By deciding in advance exactly what you’re going to do and when and where you’re going to do it, using these plans dramatically reduces the demands placed on your willpower. If-then planning has been shown in over 100 studies to be uniquely useful when it comes to resisting temptation and building good habits, increasing rates of goal attainment by 200% to 300% on average.