Struggling to manage your procrastination? Tired of cleaning the fridge with a toothbrush rather tackling your tasks? Laura Drury shares some suggestions to help galvanise you to action, take control of your procrastination and enjoy yourself in the process.
Just like New Year, post-lockdown resolutions often wane after a few weeks. Sound familiar? Old habits die hard, but with the right mindset, you can create new ones to help you be more productive and consistent.
How can you do it?
By using what comes to us naturally and, in some cases, easily:
Our imaginations enable us to time travel, creating futures for ourselves that are desirable, dreadful or somewhere in-between.
When you think about what you have to do, consider how you’re thinking about it. Invariably we paint a dreary picture, e.g. time crawling by as you try to remember the right formula for a spreadsheet. The mere thought causing you to open the biscuit cupboard, which then reminds you to do a shopping order...
Dopamine, or a lack thereof, can be a cause of procrastination for some. If a task seems truly unbearable, break it into chunks and reward yourself when you complete each one.
According to Neuroscientist, Tali Sharot, rewards motivate us more than threats because ‘when we expect something good, our brain initiates a ‘go’ signal.’ Therefore, if we reward an action, we’re more likely to repeat it in future.
Whether it’s a happy dance, a cuppa or a square of chocolate, get an extra dopamine hit by acknowledging and celebrating your completion of that task.
What if, however, there are elements of your work that aren’t too bad or, dare we say, enjoyable? As Mary Poppins said, “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun. Find the fun and SNAP, the job’s a game!”
Fun, particularly play, shouldn’t be underestimated as an effective tool.
But why? How does fun help?
Children learn best through play. If something is fun to learn, information sticks in the brain better. And before you think play is just for kids, remember adults are simply older children. Why shouldn’t the same apply to us?
The good news is – it does! Play helps us build resilience, improve learning, boost creativity, reduce stress, improve wellbeing and communicate better with others. Not to mention, if we have fun and enjoy working – we won’t want to procrastinate! If work seems laborious, infuse some fun into it and you’ll be more productive!
It’s important to remember that, whilst positive thinking is great in the short term, realistic is better long term. Whilst we might envisage bright futures, it’s important to anticipate any potential obstacles, and how we might overcome those too.
One of the neurotransmitters keeping us motivated is noradrenaline. Its production requires some essential amino acids which can be found in complete protein foods such as soya, eggs or fish, to name a few.
Why not add some seeds/nuts to your yoghurt, salad or soup? Eat houmous – who doesn’t love houmous? There are many foods that contribute to motivation and brain health and whilst just adding these to your diet won’t work alone, combined with other changes to your day, they can help.
Walking/running at an easy pace helps to spark our creative ideas. Whilst that might not be enough to get us on our feet, something simple like changing our routine can help. Rather than trying to add a walk to your day, see if you can walk instead of drive or get the bus. Particularly when the sun is shining and you get an extra boost of Vitamin D!
Even easier than walking is dancing. If there’s a song or piece of music you can’t resist moving to, play it as often as possible. If you’re in the office, go boogie in the toilet cubicle - preferably with your earphones in and the door closed! If at home, wiggle in front of the washing machine…
Dance is not only great exercise, but it also gives us a happiness boost. Our brains make predictions all the time and if we get those predictions right, we love it! Therefore, bopping around in time to music we know well and striking poses at the very moment the music stops,gives us small hits of dopamine. Opening sequence to the Greatest Showman anyone?
The best working environment comes down to personal preference, but the biggest tip is to minimise interruptions; being distracted can bring about feelings of stress and frustration. It can take over 20 mins to regain concentration afterwards. If all your effort was exhausted just getting started, your ability to restart will seem impossible.
If none of the above appeal, take heart, dear reader! Procrastination might just work to your advantage. Doing it the right way might mean you’re more creative, make better decisions and maybe even get more done.
Now, where’s my Greatest Showman soundtrack…?