Overcome Procrastination With Mindfulness
10 Tips You Haven't Tried to Stop Procrastination
I asked the JMB Living community what their biggest challenge was, and one of the highest responses was procrastinating.
There is no better time to focus on working against our urges to procrastinate than now. With spring at our doorstep, the energy of the season can help give you the extra boost of energy you need be more productive. There is a reason you feel inspired to do spring cleaning as the weather warms. Not only is this a symbolic time to come out of hibernation, but we see nature springing into action all around us, which encourages us, too! As our bodies get more sun and create more melatonin, our energy also increases.
Procrastinating can haunt many aspects of our lives: work tasks, home projects, getting exercise or even just doing laundry. These ten tips will help set you up with ways to support you in growing as you work to improve your follow-through on things you want to accomplish.
How to Harness Sunlight for Energy that Overcomes Procrastination
Did you know how much direct sunlight can increase your energy level and ability to focus? Having sufficient energy and clear focus are critical to overcoming executive dysfunction and beginning a task. Getting started on something that you're dreading or a task that seems challenging is already hard enough, but when you don't have enough capacity to focus on it or begin, it can feel impossible. With a higher amount of energy, you are more likely to feel capable of starting and completing the task.
The same is true with focus. If your mind is foggy and wandering, you are more likely to convince yourself that you should wait until your mind is clear to get started. You are also more likely to get distracted and start doing one hundred things other than the one you set out to accomplish.
But how can just sunlight change any of this?
1. Get Direct Sunlight Early in the Day
Optimize your hormones by beginning your day with sunlight. According to Dr. Huberman from the Huberman Lab Podcast, even just five minutes of direct sunlight in the morning can make a big impact on the level of energy and focus you will have throughout the day. If it is highly overcast, try to get outside for at least a 30-minute walk early in the morning.
I changed my morning routines a while ago to take advantage of this hack, and it has made such a noticeable difference in my energy and focus levels that I am sharing this with everyone who will listen. I now prioritize my walk to be soon after sunrise or if I have morning meetings, I sit outside to write in my journal, eat breakfast or have my first cup of tea—even if I need to bundle up in a coat or blanket to do so.
Not only has this dramatically impacted my energy and focus each day, but it has also positively impacted my sleep, as well. As someone that has struggled to get quality sleep, this has been a true blessing for me. These few minutes of early morning sun help reset your circadian rhythm and give you a morning boost of cortisol when it can be utilized best.
How To Use Structure To Avoid Procrastination
There are multiple ways to create forward momentum before you even begin. If you establish what is important, you are more likely to follow through. According to Dr. Gail Matthews of Dominican University in California, if you write your goals and commitments down instead of just thinking about it, you are 43% more likely to accomplish what you set out to do. There are multiple ways to create a routine that supports this approach to productivity.
2. Write your Core Values Where You Will See Them Daily
Having a clear sense of your core values and vision for your life in both the near and long-term future can help guide your daily choices and activities. If you have your core values written down somewhere you can see them each day, you will be reminded of why it is important to accomplish the tasks and big challenges that you may otherwise want to put off. I like to write my core values on the inside cover of my JMB Living Journal, so that it is one of the first things I see every morning.
3. Create a Plan of Action
Work backwards from your goal or dream to create a plan to get you to success. What is the last thing that has to happen before your goal is achieved? What steps must be completed before this is accomplished? Keep working backwards, setting milestones for yourself until you get to where you are today. This should also be written down in a place you are going to see it daily.
4. Set Daily/Weekly Priorities
Break your big plan down into tasks that can be accomplished in a short period of time, such as a day or week. As you reference your plan and write down these more manageable steps, you have already set into motion what you are going to do. Use the Eisenhower Box to help you prioritize what makes it onto your list. Former president Dwight Eisenhower, was known for an incredible ability to achieve and sustain productivity. One famous strategy he used was to break tasks into four categories:
a. Urgent and important (to be done immediately)
b. Important, but not urgent (to be scheduled)
c. Urgent, but not important (to be delegated)
d. Neither urgent nor important (to be eliminated)
“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”-Dwight Eisenhower
5. End Your Day by Planning the Next One
At the end of each day, write down your top three priorities for tomorrow. With your plan already in front of you the next morning, you are far less likely to procrastinate about what is on the list for that day.
Create a Procrastination-Proof Environment
6. Clean Up and Get Organized
Be creative in setting up a workspace that feels good to you. It doesn’t matter whether you are at your desk, your in-home gym, in your garden, etc. If you make the atmosphere more inviting, you are more likely to follow through and do what you intend to do. When we had all kinds of furniture and other things stored in the room I do yoga, I just couldn’t seem to do it, even though there was enough room. How your space feels matters.
Having organization that works for you specifically is equally important. If your desk is clean and well-organized, it will be easier to organize your thoughts and stay focused as well.
7. Eliminate distractions
Don’t let distractions be the reason you put off finishing what you want to accomplish. Use the technology available on your phone to silence except for what you need to hear. You’ll be so much more efficient if you don’t have a ding from your phone or computer each time a new message comes through.
The Power of Your Mind Can Overcome Procrastination
Harness the power of your mind to overcome the urge to procrastinate when it arises. Your mind is capable of helping you make things happen in a big way or thwarting your efforts. The key is to take control of your mind!
8. Use positive self-talk.
One of the best ways to utilize the power of your mind is by being your own best cheerleader. Think of “The Little Engine that Could”, but instead of saying, “I think I can,” switch to, “I know I can.” Or, replay an inspiring song in your mind over and over again.
You can also say an affirmation to get you over the hurdle of getting started. If the task feels overwhelming, an affirmation such as, “I accomplish things easily!” might be a good one. Or, if you are dreading getting started because the task is one you don’t like to do, make an affirmation that focuses on the bright side. For instance, now that I no longer work in the accounting field, I found that I was really hating the time I had to spend on my business accounting. Finally, I created the affirmation, “The numbers are a like a puzzle painting a picture of the status of my business and it’s fun to watch what they reveal.”
9. Use Rewards
Your brain thrives on a reward system. Every time you win the reward, you get a dose of happy juice–dopamine. Take advantage of this. Don’t let yourself have or do something you want to do until you accomplish the task.
If you employ all these tactics and are still procrastinating, you may need to investigate the underlying reason why you don’t want to do something.
Is there something you are afraid of, or do you lack belief in your ability to do the task correctly or well? If so, how can you further practice the steps leading up to this or get further education to give you confidence?
Are you bored? If so, how can you make the task more fun and interesting?
Does the task frustrate you? Dig into the details of why, to see if you can find a way to lessen this feeling.
Are you not sure exactly how to go about it? If so, can you bite off a small part of the task and do it first?
Perhaps you really don’t feel like you are the one that should be doing this task in the first place, but you haven’t delegated it.
Taking some time to journal about the real reason why you are procrastinating, it could give you some helpful insight on how to get past it.