How To Defeat The Procrastination Monkey

Sep 28 / Jude Schweppe
Here’s an interesting thing I’ve noticed about myself – when it comes to getting shit done, I am binary. I will either plough through the to-do list, gleefully ticking things off and high fiving myself for my efficiency and dedication to the project at hand, or I will resist, resist, resist and do anything and everything but the project at hand, stress levels rising by the hour and procrastination manifesting as actual physical discomfort. The voice of reason says ‘just go and bloody do it,’ while the monkey on my shoulder says ‘look, over there, more stuff that will be infinitely more gratifying right now than the stuff you actually have to do.’ The monkey is particularly vocal when said ‘stuff’ involves more than one task, or something that will need to be done over a matter of days or weeks.

The rational part of our brain knows that it would be much better to sit down now and get the task out of the way. At school, it was this part of my brain that exhorted me to get the damn English essay out of the way as soon as I got home. Monkey had other ideas, though. Fuck that, it’s Friday, the essay can wait. Friday would turn into Saturday, Saturday would turn into Sunday and before you know it it’s egg sambos for tea, Murder She Wrote is on the telly, the feckin’ essay is still not written and I have a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach as I am in no more mood to write a bloody essay than I am to clean the dog poo out of the yard. Why didn’t I just get it done on Friday? Gahhhhhhh!

As a mature and, very occasionally, organised adult, I have learned a thing or two about how to deal with the procrastination monkey, and I share these things with you now, my fellow procrastinators, in the hope that they will bring a little more flow to the process of Getting Shit Done.

Tip 1. Do a little exploration around why it is you might be procrastinating – it may well be that the task is onerous and you just can’t be arsed, or it may be that there’s something a little deeper at play. Is there some fear around getting the task done? And remember, it could be fear of success as much as fear of failure? In the case of either, ask yourself what’s the worst that could happen and how you will handle it. Digging a little deeper around the reasons for your procrastination will help you understand what you need to work through before you get started.
Tip 2. Get all other distractions off the list first of all. Diving into a big project requires clarity of thought and real focus, so if there are loads of other niggly things taking up headspace, get the buggers out of the way before you begin on the bigger project. Sit down and make a list of all the things that can easily be ticked off and just plough through them. This will shift the energy into one of ‘preparedness’ and remove any distractions. I just need to do X, Y, or Z before I can get started is a great way of never getting started. So deal with X, Y and Z promptly and then don’t go looking for A, B or C.

Tip 3. Have a good old brainstorm around the task or project, using mind mapping software or an old-fashioned sketchpad and Crayolas! Put the name or theme of the project in the centre and just start riffing on all the things that might be involved. This helps your brain to start seeing the project as a set of ideas or tasks that you can get to grips with rather than one big overwhelming project that is, frankly scaring the bejaysus out of you.

Tip 4. Break it down into easily manageable chunks. This is the process I find the most useful and the one I always come back to when resistance really kicks in. As an example, creating my 8 week Into the Spotlight programme was something that was seriously scaring the bejaysus out of me, however, after completing step 3 and, in particular step 4, the fear began to dissipate and the physical discomfort associated with that fear abated as well. I broke the tasks down into a series of totally achievable sub tasks and gave myself a high five for things like: ‘Research and choose the best camera to record videos with.’ Task ticked off, go have wine!

Tip 5. Set the timer on your phone for 30 minutes or get yourself the 30/30 App. This breaks things down into 30-minute intervals for you and is a great way of helping you to get into action mode. Doing something for 30 minutes and just giving it your all is a much sweeter pill to swallow than the idea of sitting down at the desk and slogging away ineffectively for hours on end. Once you start, you’ll find the natural momentum of ‘doing’ begins to take over and you may not even want to stop at 30 minutes.
Tip 6. Get yourself an accountability buddy and tell them not to let you off the hook. If you really and truly want to get something done and you know you have a habit of ‘going easy’ on yourself, phone a friend or family member, publicly declare your intentions and ask them to kick your butt if you don’t make shit happen.

Now go forth and be a truly terrible procrastinator!

p.s. I happen to be a darn good accountability buddy, and am very good at kicking butt while gently coaxing you to brilliance. Click here if you’d like to know more about working with me.
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