Six steps to stop procrastinating

Published: 20 June 2018 By Harvard Business Review 2016

Six steps to stop procrastinating

The reward for completing a task must be bigger than the pain of tackling it

 

Iti s important to confront the downside of inaction. Force yourself to think about the pros and cons of not doing a given task. Photograph: Gettystock

Iti s important to confront the downside of inaction. Force yourself to think about the pros and cons of not doing a given task. Photograph: Gettystock

 

Our brains are programmed to procrastinate. In general, we can process concrete things better than we can process abstract thoughts about the future.

So how can you become less myopic about your tasks? It’s all about rebalancing the cost-benefit analysis. The reward for doing a task needs to feel larger than the immediate pain of tackling it.

Here are six tricks you can try to make the benefits of taking action feel bigger – and make the costs of taking action feel smaller:

1 Visualise how great it will be to get it done 

Try imagining the virtuous sense of satisfaction you’ll have once a task is completed – and perhaps also the look of relief on your colleague’s face when he gets from you what he needed. 

2 Pre-commit, publicly 

Tell people what you’re going to get done to help incentivise you to take action.

3 Confront the downside of inaction 

Force yourself to think about the pros and cons of not doing a given task.

4 Identify the first step 

Break down big, amorphous tasks into baby steps that don’t feel as effortful.

5 Tie the first step to a treat 

We can make the costs of effort feel even smaller if we link them to something we’re actually looking forward to doing. In other words, tie the task that you’re avoiding to something that you’re not avoiding.

6 Remove the hidden blockage 

If you can’t figure out why you’re stalling on a task, you need to ask that stubborn voice in your head some questions. Figure out what’s really holding you back from taking action. – Copyright Harvard Business Review 2016

 

Previously published in The Irish Times.

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