Friday, 22 October 2010

Overcoming Procrastination

Procrastination is opportunity's natural assassin.
Victor Kiam

Two weeks ago I came across an article in The New Yorker on procrastination.

Sidebar: It’s a lengthy piece but if you have the time read it, it’s pretty interesting. I will warn you that my New Yorker bias may be swaying my opinion

After reading The New Yorker piece I took comfort in the fact that according to ‘anecdata’ I am not alone! Many people also struggle with procrastination.

Procrastinating is a habit I picked up in sixth form and perfected in University. I remember revising entire courses two days before an exam and turning up to exams looking like a prisoner of war. Upon leaving university it became apparent that procrastinating had bled into other areas of my life. Fast forward to age 23 and I’m over-qualified to teach a course on ‘How To Procrastinate’. The only problem is I’d probably keep putting off when I’d run it.
(See what I did there?).


I decided to change.

Not because I wanted to change but because I knew I needed to. The pangs of guilt I’d feel every night when I realised I’d accomplished nothing were bad for my health (I know I’m a drama queen). More importantly I needed to change because I’m trying to be a better daughter/sister/niece/friend/wearer of fabulous clothes. And the less procrastinating I do, the better I become at all of those roles. I realised I needed to learn new habits and crucially unlearn old ones. I started reading extensively (well obsessively) on the topic and seeking advice from anyone willing to give it.

Much to my surprise over the past few months there’s been a significant improvement. I now get things done instead of having a long list of things that need to be done. I’m not there yet. I’ve put off doing my hair for so long yesterday a hairdresser stopped me in the street to offer her services *hangs head in shame * However I’m slowly getting there.

Today I thought I’d share some of the tools I’m using in my journey towards overcoming procrastination. It’d be great if you left some of your tips and experiences in the comments section. The more I learn, the better: )

Here it goes.....

Overcoming Procrastination

1) Re-evaluate your life

‘Anyone that constantly defers everything they need to do, is probably living someone else's life’

The above is what a friend said to me a while back and I do think he has a point. A lot of people fill their lives with things done to fulfill others expectations, rather than things that align to their core. Therefore they're constantly playing the 'I'll do it tomorrow' game, because they don't really want to do those things at all. The question we need to ask is 'Why do I do what I do?’ and 'Am I meant to be doing what I do?'

The more you fill your life with the things you love, the easier ‘work’ becomes. After all 'do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’.

2) Have a reasonable to do list

A lot of procrastination stems from the fact we’re too ambitious when formulating our ‘to do list’.
Long ‘to do lists’ are overrated. It's better to work smart than work hard. Extensive periods of hard work will result in diminishing returns and your work becomes more and more mediocre with each step you take.Contrarily, if your ‘to do list’ is too short, you may gain displaced confidence as a result of doing very little.So keep it reasonable.

3) Keep your ‘To do List’ quiet

I blogged on this a few weeks ago however if you haven’t seen it yet, Watch here -→ Guard Your Goals. Also there’s a brilliant talk over at TED, which puts my vlog to shame and gives a scientific rationale behind the benefits of keeping your goals quiet. Click Here.

4) Prioritise

The more I encounter people obsessed with seeming busy, the more I realise people don’t understand the concept of ‘high priority’.

If everything on your 'to do list' is ‘high priority’ it’s either....

a) Your life is so hectic you're heading towards a heart attack
b) You don’t know what ‘high’, ‘urgent’ or ‘priority’ is.

Prioritise. Placing the most arduous and important tasks at the top of pile. When you do the hard stuff first, everything else will feel easy.

5) Declutter

Decluttering is nothing more than stripping your life down to its necessary components.

So Declutter…

Your workspace
Your head
Your ‘friends’
Your diet
Declutter your 'to do list' (again)

I intend to write a blog post on the merits of decluttering and how important it is in maintaining good energy around you. My sisters laugh at me every time I mention concepts like ‘energy’, ‘light’, and ‘balance’ but they matter. Unless you’re balanced internally, you will struggle to get things in order externally. To borrow the words of Erykah Badu ‘Pack Light’.

6) Be Accountable

We all need checks and balances. Find someone to be accountable to.

7) Find a routine

Personally this has been the hardest rule to implement. I thrive off the unexpected. However a foundation and routine is needed to hold up the superstructure of our lives.

8) Be Flexible

I had to learn the 'flexibility rule' the hard way. Part of overcoming procrastinating is distinguishing procrastination from a creative block. If you’re genuinely trying to get a task done and it’s not working, move on. Some barriers aren’t meant to be overcome at that moment in time. We must respect our creative blocks, because they have their place. Be flexible and know when to walk away.

9) Choose not to live each day like your last

You know the saying ‘Live each day like you last’? I hate it. It’s stupid advice. Why on earth people subscribe to it, I do not know. If it’s our last day on earth, tomorrow doesn't matter because we won't be here to see it unfold!

On other hand if we live each day in order to make our tomorrow better (and easier), it’s an incentive to get on with things. When I’m about to put off doing something I think (aloud) ‘If you leave it till tomorrow, it’ll only be harder’. And because I feel embarrassed that I’m talking to myself, I start to get on with it.

10) Show Up and Work

I've left the most important rule till last. The bottom line is you’ve got to show up. If you don't show up, rules 1-9 are inconsequential. Show up, work and do your best.

Love and Light




  1. this is such a good post that i needed to read...
    Procrastination! Sigh....i am getting better i think

  2. I can't say it's something I'm struggling with but in my case, number 7 "Find a routine" is a must when you have children (and a husband!!!). I don't know what I'd do without my routine. My to-do list is kept to a minimum on a daily basis and I've decluttered it with time. Things like housework, appointments etc. all have their level of importance but I've also realised some things within those categories can wait. over the years I was putting way too much pressure on myself to get things by a deadline and it just caused me stress. For instance before it used to be a rule in my house that the washing up has to be done after each meal. But I have had to adjust this and be a bit more relaxed about it because the kids demand much more attention. I realise that the less pressure I put on myself the less disappointed I am when I don't get some of the stuff done.
    I am working harder on more important things such as visiting or calling friends and family. This is one thing I had the [bad] habit of procrastinating but I realised the importance of maintaining good relationships with my friends and family. Thanks for another great post Christiana.
    Oooops sorry this is a relly long comment lol.

  3. Interesting read...thanks for sharing.

  4. @waikisays - as a mother and wife as well I've had to learn to not put so much pressure on myself to get things done at a specific time. Though I'm still ver much a work in progress. Very great points.

    @Christiana - Really love coming by your site :-) Look forward to your new endeavor as well.

  5. Really enjoyed this post. I am an awful procrastinator! Working on it, though. This helps!

  6. I love your site, I always find great advice. This particular post it exactly what I needed to hear.

  7. Thank you for sharing you idea and tips now I try no exercise your tips ... I'm great to read you blog... Good day!!!

    Procrastination Free Living