People often ask me what they can do about procrastination.
The good news is there is something you can do. Let me share my secrets with you. It might not address your underlying issues for avoiding particular tasks but it will help you achieve your today’s task.
We only really use the term procrastination in a negative way when we are scolding, “Stop procrastinating” or annoyed with ourselves for wasting precious time: “I am such a procrastinator.”
The mere word can bring up feelings of anxiety or guilt for not getting to the task at hand. We instantly feel bad. It doesn’t need to be this way. Why constantly feel frustrated when we can instead use it in a positive way?
Here I will share with you my secrets on:
1. How to make procrastination your friend
2. How to move passed procrastination using The 5-Minute Rule
1. Making Procrastination Your Friend.
First let’s change the way we look at the word. Procrastination literally means “deferment,” “postponement” or “stalling.” We don’t need to feelbad. Let’s take back the control we often give over to the power of procrastination as if it actually holds some power.
It doesn’t, we do. Let’s use it to our advantage.
As soon as you notice yourself avoiding your task at hand and leaning toward doing anything but, stop and recognise it. Awareness is key. It may sound obvious but how many times have you wasted half a day watching television or on Facebook when you just meant to have a quick glance?
Recognize that moment. It is not a bad thing. Nothing to get frustrated over, just notice it. Rather than waste time (which is ultimately what we are doing), use this time in a positive way.
CHOOSE how you want to use this moment of procrastination. TAKE BACK CONTROL. Here is how:
1. Do something that will only take a short time frame (not a few hours).
2. Make it something with your hands; some physical and not mental activity.
3. Make sure the activity provides some level of satisfaction no matter how miniscule.
4. Use this time to clear your mind and start to focus on the task you are avoiding, so by the time you are ready — you are actually ready!
5. Mentally prepare to get to your task by using The 5-Minute Rule (we will get to that shortly).
As an author, my favorite form of procrastination is hand washing and I use it often. I might turn on my laptop to write and find myself looking at Facebook. So instead of “procrastinating” and wasting my morning, I immediately close my computer and grab my washing basket. The washing is a mindless task but allows my brain time to switch on and clear my thoughts.
Using my hands wakes my body up and brings me to an alert state. It may take me ten or twenty minutes but by the end I am feeling good that my clothes are clean and hanging to dry, my body feels awake and my mind alert. I also start to switch my mind to my task, what I want to accomplish in my book today. Clothes clean, laptop back on and ready to go.
So what did I do? I recognized I was about to waste my morning and hand my power away to procrastination and stopped it immediately. I CHOSE how to procrastinate. I made it my friend.
2. “The 5-Minute Rule”
So you have used procrastination wisely and prepared yourself for your task… but maybe you still don’t want to do it. Don’t find another form of procrastination — try using The 5-Minute Rule.
Maybe it is to start doing some exercise, replying to your long list of unread emails or writing in your journal. It doesn’t matter what it is, it is a mental game not a time management one.
So let me ask you a question, in a 24-hour day would you have 5 minutes spare? If I asked you to attend to your task for 5 minutes, do you think you could do it? Just 5 minutes.
Now you can begin moving through procrastination using The 5-Minute Rule.
“I am going to start at the top and go through my emails for the next 5 minutes.”
“I am going to go for a run for just 5 minutes.”
“I am going to write in my journal for the next 5 minutes.”
If I asked you to spend the next hour replying to your emails, chances are you wouldn’t even begin. But if I ask you to sit for just 5 minutes, you are much more likely to. You can always go for longer, in fact often you will but The 5-Minute Rule helps to get you there (I mean it is only 5 minutes after-all) whilst providing a level of satisfaction for achieving exactly what you set out for.
Try The 5-Minute Rule to get you to the starting block for any new activity or to attend things you just never feel you want to. The hardest part of anything is starting.
So start. Turn up. Open the first page. Stretch your hamstrings, do some sit-ups, open your emails. Whatever it is, start now. It is only 5-minutes.
Disclaimer: I didn’t hand wash in the writing of this article, however I did sweep the floor.
Romi Grossberg is a writing therapist, counsellor, facilitator of ‘Writing from The Source’ workshops and author. The theme of procrastination is part of her upcoming new book, titled ‘The 5-Minute Guide to Emotional Intelligence’ to be released in May 2016. For more information, go towww.romigrossberg.com