(and generally stop procrastinating)
You know you’re supposed to be doing something else. Maybe you need to study, code, or work on that presentation coming up. The only problem is you can’t stop Netflixing and now you’re almost through a full season of that TV show, and you’re worried about what you will do when it ends.
Procrastination is a challenge I hear about from lots of people, many times as a way to avoid something they’re worried about. Although watching TV for pleasure in small amounts can be fun and a way to blow off steam, in excess it can lead to increased anxiety. This is because once you turn off the TV, you realize that all the problems you had to deal with before the binge are still there, and now you may be running short on time.
Tips to break the habit
Figure out why you are procrastinating
There are different reasons that could lead one to procrastinate. Figuring out what’s driving your procrastination could aid in identifying the most effective way to combat it.
Are you overwhelmed and confused?
Then, sitting down and problem solving could be helpful.
Are you burned out because you’ve been working too much lately?
If so, going on a hike or walk, or doing something else that rejuvenates you might help.
Are you worried you can’t do it?
Then, you may need to work towards challenging negative thinking and remind yourself of times you tackled challenges in the past. Give yourself permission to take things one step and a time and ask for help if you need it.
Set SMART goals
When working towards a daunting deadline, sometimes people set goals that are too ambitious or vague. In these instances, they may become frustrated when they feel unable to meet their goals and become demotivated. When setting goals, remember the acronym SMART.
For example, a goal of “I want to be healthier” on its own is vague and difficult to measure, whereas a goal of “I will eat three different types of vegetables today” is SMART.
In terms of getting work done, sometimes people think “my goal is to get this done.” Instead, it would be more helpful to break down the task into smaller SMART goals such as “Today, I will complete an outline of the presentation. Tomorrow, I will put together the introduction,” etc.
Get an accountability buddy
Research demonstrates that social support is powerful, and helps people maintain motivation, better cope with stress, and encourages making healthy choices and behaviors.
If you have a friend, colleague, or partner who can provide support, you could schedule regular check ins to see how each of you are doing in approaching your goals and troubleshoot through difficulties.
Practice opposite action
Opposite action is a skill from a type of behavioral therapy called DBT (dialectical behavior therapy). To practice this skill, you first identify whether the emotion you are experiencing fits the facts. For instance, if you are feeling scared of walking down a dark alley in the middle of the night, this likely fits facts and you should act accordingly (i.e., take a different route).
However, if you are feeling scared of a presentation, ultimately you know it poses no physical threat to you. In this instance, your feelings do not fit the facts. In this case, you will need to work against the urge your emotion is evoking (i.e., running into the arms of Netflix), and instead channel your inner rebel to do the opposite (i.e., running towards PowerPoint).
Take breaks & reward yourself for your work
To help motivate yourself to complete tasks, you could set a plan to reward yourself for working for a set amount of time or after you have hit a key milestone. Knowing that you will receive breaks and rewards for your work may make approaching the task seem less daunting and more approachable from the get go. You may be less likely to avoid the task by making it more enjoyable in this way.
For example, you could say that after a half hour of work, you will take a 5 minute break and enjoy a snack. Or, perhaps you could decide that after reaching a certain milestone in your project, you could reward yourself with one episode of your favorite show.
After all, I am not here to vilify Netlix and other streaming platforms, but rather to help you identify ways to stop using them as a form of procrastination.
A Final Word
If you’d like to talk more about finding ways to break your patterns of procrastination, feel free to reach out for a free initial consult.