How to Stop Procrastinating - 3 Tips on Self-Motivation
Hey, it’s Dr. Liu here with Better LIFE Research TIPS. In this video, I will show you the ultimate reasons for procrastination and the 3 tips on how to stop procrastinating, and be more productive.
Many people have problem of procrastination. We have tasks that we need to do, but we just don’t want to do them right now. So they are always delayed. The ultimate reason for procrastination is that, human beings are naturally emotional, and in most of time, our behaviors are controlled by emotions instead of our rational willpower. Our willpower tells us to do something that will benefit us in the long term. But our emotions often tell us to do something else that is easy and fun, or with quick reward. The problem is that, our willpower is limited. It takes brain energy. And it is not always there. If all the time, we just rely on our willpower to beat our emotions, it would be very hard. Willpower may win a few times when we are strong and focused, but in most of the time, it will lose to our emotions.
The good news is, there is something else that is stronger than our emotions. That is our habit. Habit is something we do without much thinking. It is something we do subconsciously, and almost automatically, as daily routine. Once a habit is formed, we do not need much willpower to continue. Habit does not consume much brain energy. If we can transfer our willpower into our daily habit, our willpower will have more chance to affect our behavior. All highly productive people have good work habits. But, to establish a new good habit is not easy. It needs strategic planning, and strong willpower at the start.
Therefore, our tip No. 1 is, to start from establishing micro-habits. Micro-habit is the habit that requires the least amount of efforts. The No. 1 reason for procrastination is that the task is hard. If our task takes a lot of efforts, we should break it down and start from a micro-task that we can do everyday. We should do this micro-task everyday and make it a micro-habit. Once this micro-habit is established, our body will be more adapted, and then we can gradually increase our daily tasks.
For example, if we want to establish a new habit of physical exercise, we can start from a micro-habit of doing at least one pushup everyday. If we have a writing task, we can start from writing at least one sentence everyday. The key is, we do not focus on how much we can write everyday, or whether we are in good mood to write, we focus on doing it everyday. In some good days, we may actually be able to write continuously after we start. In order days, we mays just be able to write a few sentences. But it is OK. The idea is, when we are not focusing on our performance, we make our daily task easier, so we do not have any excuse not to do it.
One effective method to establish a new habit is called the “don’t break the chain” method. In this method, everyday, after we complete our task, we put a mark on a calendar. The mark on each day on the calendar will make a continuous chain if we do it everyday. Our objective is “don’t break the chain”. The chain works as a psychological motivator that can push us to complete our daily task. It give us a sense of accomplishment. And as the chain gets longer and longer, we are less likely to break it, because we may feel like we have more to lose.
The tip No. 2 is, focus on self-improvement instead of the benefit of the task. The No. 2 reason for procrastination is that the benefit of our task is often in the future. That is why it often does not provide enough motivation for us to do it right now. Therefore, we need to find new motivations. One way is to focus on our progress rather than the result. We should reward ourselves as long as we are making progress. For that purpose, we need to establish a recording and rewarding system. We record all the progress we made, and reward ourselves based on the records. The recording and rewarding system will provide a more timely and more reliable motivation than the future benefit of the task. It is like transforming our tedious task into a kind of self-improvement game.
For example, if we have a writing task, we can compete with ourselves by recording how many minutes we are actually writing or how many words we write every week. We reward ourselves if we are making improvement. The reward can be either material or spiritual, whichever works on us. The key is, we should have continuous positive feedback for our progress, either from outside, or we can create it for ourselves, make it visible to us, so that we can have a sense of accomplishment for our progress. When I start this youtube channel, I was not well prepared. But I tell myself, the most important thing is to get it started, and I can improve everything gradually. After I start, the increasing views and subscribers provide a direct measurement of my progress, and they become my most direct motivation to continue this task.
The tip No. 3 is, dedicate our high-energy time to planning. Basically, there are two types of procrastination. In the first type, the task we are procrastinating is actually very simple, the reason we do not want to do it, is often that we have other stress in our life. We have huge stress in our mind, so we do not want to handle even a simple task on hand. This is actually also the reason for many people to stay late at night. We have stress, we feel guilty for not using our time properly, so we can not even do a simple task of going to bed on time. For this type of procrastination, we may need to address the source of our stress first.
But here, I want to focus more on the second type of procrastination. In this type, the task we are procrastinating is often a complex task that involves a lot of creative work. The main reason we do not want to do it, is often that we do not have a clear idea on how to do it. In this case, we should give enough credit to the planning of the task. We need quality time for planning, so that we can break down a complex task into many small and actionable tasks. Then it would be easier for us to act. The key is, we should realize that the planning takes a lot of energy. As we said, our willpower is limited. At certain time of a day, we may feel more energetic and easier to focus. These high-energy time should be dedicated as our strategic time, specifically for planning and thinking. In our weekly or daily strategic time, we focus on planning on our complex tasks, transforming them into actionable tasks, and we may also review our work habits.
For our strategic time, we should create a nice environment, and minimize all the possible distractions. It may be a good idea to follow a certain routine to create a sense of rituality that can help us to enter a very focused mood for our strategic time.
So these are the 3 tips on how to stop procrastinating. They are mainly for long term fix. But sometime we have something need to be done today, but we are just feeling unmotivated and can not focus. What can we do? One quick fix is simply going outside and having a walk for 15 min. Our energy level and our ability to focus can often be improved after a short walk, due to exposure to the nature and to the sunlight. It works on me. Hope it also works on you.
Thanks for watching, I am Dr. Liu with research tips for the underdogs. If we want to be the master of our life, we need to stop procrastinating and start cultivating good work habits. Until next time, let’s start from some micro-habits and make our life different.
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