7 Ways to Beat Your Procrastination (Hint: You don't have to try too hard)
January 07, 2021
CATEGORY: Career Hacks

A life of an employee can joggle between postponing work for short-term gratification and aiming for perfection. If it’s only easy to learn or to absorb that reading material (e.g. How to learn Japanese in a week), then we won’t be discussing the problems of procrastination. The reality is that our attention span isn’t unlimited. So beating a short-term gratification is like learning it as if you’re learning a new skill - to beat the habit of “putting off doing something”.

Breakdown tasks into smaller chunks

When you try to finish a huge task, it’s likely that you’ll feel overwhelmed and end up loitering around and not finishing any project. What happens is that you’ll miss deadlines and wait until the last minute. So if you’re writing codes for web design, break it into smaller chunks - making the site structure, designing the navigation bar, and thinking about using animations. The same for writing long articles - writing first the outline, then the body and last the title. You don’t have to finish it all at once since you can finish the other half of the article. 

  • Outline the process by arranging into logical steps (which one should be 1st or 2nd, etc.).

  • Make a timeline for completing the tasks.

Use the Pareto principle

Pareto principle is named after Wilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist from 1895. He discovered that 20% of the population controls 80% of the country’s wealth. Applied to learning, Pareto’s rule prioritizes the essential tasks, months, days and anything. For example, when you study Japanese language, you only have to study the 20% of the most important verbs and vocabularies rather than studying the whole bunch of verbs that aren’t always used in daily situations. 

For example, these are some of the most important Japanese verbs.

  • Taberu  - たべる - to eat

  • Sawaru - さわる 触る - to touch

  • Aru- ある 有る- To be, exist

  • Okiru- おきる 起きる- To wake up

  • Kuru- くる 来る- To come

  • Miru- みる 見る- To see/To watch

  • Kaeru- かえる 返る- To return home


Face failure

Fearing failure feeds procrastination. The mindset behind this is that Jim’s self-worth lies at the highest level of success and so he decides to avoid discomfort or uncertainty. He decides to play outside instead of studying web development because of fear of short-term failure. English wordsmiths call the fear of failure as “Atychiphobia” that stops us from doing tasks and moving ahead to reach our goal.

What are the symptoms of fear of failure

  • Reluctance to try challenging projects or new tasks

  • Self-sabotage - Excessive anxiety and procrastination

  • Perfectionism - Trying to achieve unrealistic goals and avoiding failure

How to face fear

  • Have plan B

  • Analyse possible outcomes

  • Learn rational thinking

Use spaced learning/practice and breaks

Spaced repetitions help you to avoid burnout so you don’t have to try too hard. This technique reduces the tendency to procrastinate. Science tells us that our dopamine hormone is limited and when it’s depleted we have a hard time to focus. Unfortunately, we don't have an unlimited supply and it runs out when we concentrate on something. It’s like gas on a car. Pomodoro is a technique for spacing practice/learning and breaks. It was popularised by the Italian student Francesco Cirillo who used a tomato-shaped timer in his study. Pomodoro is an Italian name for tomato.

  • Set the timer for 25 minutes.

  • Work on a task

  • Stop working when the timer rings

  • Take a break for 5 minutes

  • Repeat the process until you finish the task.

The goal of Pomodoro is to reduce internal and external distractions and to finish the goal.

Use multitasking in the right way

Numerous internet sources tell that multitasking can send your productivity into a plummet. While some companies sought multitasking among their employees, multitasking doesn’t always provide good results. An article from Verywell Mind details the good and bad sides of multitasking. 

When multitasking is bad

When multitasking is good

Doing high-level tasks such as:

  • Writing articles

  • Managing database

  • Writing codes for website development

  • Brainstorming

* Needing another perspective

Doing low-level tasks such as:

  • Typing

  • Copying and pasting

  • Wiping surfaces

* You’re motivated to do a specific task.


Overcome perfectionism

Perfectionism is the fear of doing mistakes or failure and so you’re stuck in the comfort zone. Likewise, you’ll fear success because you think that there’s an added responsibility. The results of perfectionism are that you don’t finish anything and are trapped in procrastination. To overcome perfectionism, you must:

  • Accept that you’re human and make mistakes - From our bodies and how the environment affects us tell us that we aren’t perfect and we are subject to entropy - the state of order to disorder.

  • Learn to take criticism - Regard constructive criticisms as clues to improve performance.

  • Differentiate between perfectionism and healthy striving - A healthy striving is honouring yourself that you can achieve more. You’re happy who you are and that you can learn and get better at your skills. On the other hand, perfectionism is dishonouring or isn’t feeling good about yourself.

  • Make realistic goals - Setting realistic goals means identifying the amount of time, personal capability and resources to finish a task.

Reward yourself

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

Rewarding yourself raises your motivation level. Rewards can be a gadget or a snack of your favourite food. The benefits of rewarding yourself are that you’re making sure of your emotional independence. Rewards don’t have to be extravagant nor expensive. In fact, you can have rewards that don’t cost anything such as strolling in your favourite park or listening to your favourite music. The benefits include getting a boost in your dopamine levels.

Here are some reward ideas:

  • Bring your family for a picnic
  • Buy a new book
  • Buy an exercise item (dumbbell, bench press)
  • Buy your new smartphone
  • Cook your favourite recipe
  • Download a favourite song
  • Eat an ice cream
  • Enrol in a new online or face-to-face class
  • Start a hobby
  • Take a break in a coffee shop and order your favourite drink
  • Take a massage from a spa
  • Take a vacation trip
  • Visit a new country
  • Visit a park
  • Watch a YouTube or Dailymotion video streaming of your favourite videos
  • Watch your favourite movie

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