The More You Do – The Better You Feel

How To Learn to Overcome Procrastination and Live a Happier Life

Five Tips to Stop Procrastinating!

  1. Running a stopwatch when you begin a task can help you stay motivated.
  2. Work in 40-minute segments and then give yourself a break.
  3. Plan your work and work your plan.
  4. If your apartment’s messy, invite your friends over!
  5. Train your mind to focus on “Just One Task.”
  1. Running a stopwatch when you begin a task can help you stay motivated.

    One of the great conundrums that habitual procrastinators face is how we perceive our tasks. Simply put, we tend to either dread our tasks or we feel excited about them. However, the only time we tend to feel excited about one of them is when a looming deadline carries with it a nasty consequence. That’s when we stop everything else and finally deal with it. However, because deadlines like that don’t tend to crop up very often, we tend to remain in procrastination mode, which prolongs our feelings of dread and agony about the tasks that we choose to put off. If we live that way long enough, we may lose confidence in ourselves and experience low self-esteem or even feelings of depression.

    I’ve learned that the tasks I’m most apt to put off are the ones that initially strike me as being boring or complicated. While looking for ways to combat my own habitual procrastination, it occurred to me that one solution might be to find a way to make them seem exciting.

    I decided to monitor my feelings while I dealt with some of those uncomfortable tasks and noticed that time seemed to drag on almost endlessly. It seemed as if I had entered another world, one where time practically stood on end. I knew, of course, that this wasn’t the case in reality, so I looked for a way to liven things up to make the time pass faster. I then remembered how I used to watch drag races on TV in my boyhood and how I used my own stopwatch to keep time—and how much more exciting the races seemed when I did that. I then figured that if it worked back then it might work now, I began timing myself while working on my tasks.

    Imagine my surprise when, suddenly, I began feeling excited about the work I was doing. Running a stopwatch had an immediate effect upon me because the competitive nature of my mind had been reawakened. As time ticked by, my mind began asking itself questions like, “How long will this really take me?” and “I wonder if can beat my time from yesterday?” I also noticed that keeping time made me less prone to distractions, and it helped keep my attention fixed on the project at hand. In short, I observed that once I hit my stopwatch’s start button I’d be off to the races and before long that once-dreadful task had been transformed into an exciting race against time.

    Even today, it doesn’t feel like my day has officially begun until I’ve started my stopwatch and gotten in a few hours of challenging work. Besides the obvious reward of getting my tasks done and out of the way, another reward arrives in the form of the positive feelings of pride, self-contentment, and higher self-esteem which come from taking better care of myself than I previously had.

  2. Work in 40-minute segments and then give yourself a break.

    Some procrastinators seem to live in two worlds. While they spend most of their time actively avoiding their tasks, their alternate world consists of trying to cram a week or more of undone tasks into a few hours of frantic, non-stop activity. It’s during those manic catch-up periods that, to all appearances, the procrastinator takes on the guise of a superhero.

    Unfortunately, the act of spending a few hours in that superhero role is as unrealistic as it is unrewarding, because after you’re done you feel exhausted and dread the next time you’ll have to put yourself through that again.

    A better way of dealing with tasks is to work on them more frequently, in smaller and more reasonable bits. This is a much calmer way of working and it will not leave you feeling frazzled and worried about the next time you need to face a task.

    Here’s a question: do you remember how long your classes ran when you were in school? Almost universally, classes tend to run around 40 minutes. There’s a reason for this standard. It’s because our minds can only take in so much information in one go, and then we need to take a break by focusing our attention on something else. This gives our minds a chance to momentarily unwind. Instead of seeing our project in a manic, “It’s got to get done now!” way, by taking a break we restore a sense of balance in our lives. The project no longer dominates us; it merely becomes something that we need to take care of.

    Learn how to limit yourself to 40-minute bursts of work activity by using a stopwatch to keep track of time. Should your task require more time, force yourself to occasionally get up and have a nice stretch, make a cup of tea or coffee, or simply take a few moments to look out a window and see the world outside. In this way you can leave the superheroes to their proper place—the funny pages.

  3. Plan your work and work your plan.

    In the past I found planning to be a terrible drag. This was because I didn’t have patience; I wanted everything now! It was almost as if I expected green lights on every street and downhill on every road. When it came to work, I seemed to have the expectation that everything worth doing should always come easily to me, and no matter the task, I almost expected that it should unfold in a natural and effortless way—what nonsense!

    Of course, my expectations were so opposite to how the real world works that I wound up avoiding practically anything that required even the least bit of planning or preparation. As you can imagine, my distorted expectations and refusal to plan things out in a methodical, step-by-step fashion helped reinforce my habitual procrastinating whenever complicated or boring tasks arose.
    I now wish that I had known back then what I know now—tasks will always take whatever time they’re going to take, and the best way to assure oneself of the shortest, smoothest, and most accurate job is to plan ahead from the very start. The only thing is, planning takes both time and patience. In addition, when someone has behaved in a certain way for a long time, changing ingrained habits can take a good amount of thought and determination.

    In order to curb myself from my habit of “do”-ing without planning, I had to practically act like a jockey holding back a racehorse that wants to jump the starting gate. I not only had to stop myself from plunging ahead without first planning out my work, but at the same time I had to stop myself from succumbing to familiar feelings of frustration. It would have been all too easy for me to simply walk away from my tasks and fall back into procrastination.

    At times like those, I needed to hold myself back and force myself to think: “What do I want to accomplish, and what’s the best way for me to proceed?” I usually found it best to write those questions down on a legal pad and to write out their answers as well. This felt unnatural at first, but as it was my nature to “do” without planning, I had to train myself to calm down and focus slowly on the job at hand. Changing such a habit wasn’t easy; however, I soon learned that once I began calmly asking myself those questions, I could reflect on them and I could then begin developing a plan of action. Once armed with a plan of action, I then knew what steps I needed to take. As a friend once suggested to me, “Plan your work and work your plan.”

  4. If your apartment’s messy, invite your friends over!

    Many people who procrastinate over tidying up their places think to themselves, “If I only clean my place because I’m having friends over, then it doesn’t count!,” and they often add, “I should be doing it for myself!”

    This is a common mistake that a lot of people make. It’s easy to fall into the trap of living in an untidy state because as long as no one is coming over to visit, you never have an incentive to “do” anything differently. However, by alienating yourself in such fashion you can run the risk of living life as a hermit or a recluse, and that, along with an unkempt living environment, can foster feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and depression.

    A person who thinks this way is missing one key point. By inviting friends over to visit you’ll not only give yourself a reason to clean, you’ll almost certainly acquire the positive habit of keeping your place tidy. Moreover, if you make it a point to invite guests over on a regular basis, you’ll almost surely widen your circle of friends as well.

    As an added benefit, you’ll also be preventing the embarrassment that can occur when an unexpected visitor (such as your landlord, the plumber, or worse, your fiancé’s mother) unexpectedly stops by.

  5. Train your mind to focus on “Just One Task.”

    A habitual procrastinator is like a firefighter who’s always putting out small blazes but never gets the main body of fire completely out. If your tendency to put things off has become your default lifestyle, you might just be a habitual procrastinator. A good way to judge this is to ask yourself two questions: Are you constantly late on a wide variety of tasks? Is your primary motivation for getting things done embarrassment, external deadlines, or dire consequences?

    A habitual procrastinator’s home often contains several incomplete “to do” lists and a few birds’ nests consisting of opened and unopened mail, bills, coupons, fliers, tax forms, and other assorted paperwork. Perhaps the one thing above all that distinguishes the habitual procrastinators from everyone else is the enormous amount of anticipatory dread and anxiety they experience whenever they simply think about approaching a long put-off task. One of the primary causes of this is behavior is that the procrastinator has put off so many tasks, he doesn’t know which one to pursue first.

    Many habitual procrastinators have reported a feeling quite similar to this: “Almost immediately after I’ve begun work on a task, I start second-guessing myself and wondering if I should have chosen a different task.” Should a procrastinator think this way, even if he gets his task accomplished he never experiences a sense of satisfaction because he’ll continue to second-guess himself, worrying that he’s just wasted his time. Just as often, he stops work halfway through his task and then attempts to start on something else. However, he’s just as likely to come to a complete halt on that task as well, while throwing his hands in the air in frustration. What the habitual procrastinator needs to learn is how to calm down and approach his tasks in a rational way.

    What I haven’t yet told you is that the confused and anxiety-ridden habitual procrastinator described in the above paragraphs used to be, in fact, me. My book is the end result of my own self-analysis and personal discovery that the key to ending my wasted days, and constant cycles of procrastination, depression, and anxiety, was not due to something wrong with me. Instead, I learned that I was the way that I was because I had never been taught a better way of dealing with my tasks.

    Work on my book began in a roundabout way while I was in the midst of a particularly devastating mental depression. At a friend’s suggestion I began keeping a feelings journal and almost by accident I eventually unearthed the connection between mental depression and habitual procrastination, along with the key to reducing, if not overcoming, both. It involved shifting my focus away from the seemingly countless number of undone tasks that awaited my attention and instead, I began thinking about dealing with “Just One Task.” Over time, I found this technique to be so successful that I decided to give it a catchy name, I called it: “The J.O.T. Method™.” Of course, there has to be more to the technique than a catchy name—it also has to work. However, I’m very pleased to tell you that the feedback I’ve been getting from readers has been even better than I hoped. You can read some of that feedback by clicking on this link.

My book, The More You Do The Better You Feel: How to Overcome Procrastination and Live a Happier Life explains The J.O.T. Method™ in clear and easily understood language. You’ll learn how to apply the technique to deal with tasks that initially strike you as being insurmountable, complicated, or worse, too boring and dull to bother with. The book’s first half explains how people develop into procrastinators, while its second half is all about learning how to take action. If it’s someone else’s procrastination that bothers you, you’ll learn how to help that person whether he or she is your employee, co-worker, or your procrastinating child.

If I can answer any questions you may have about procrastination or concerning the relationship between procrastination and depression feel free to send me an e-mail via this website’s contact page. I’ll be happy to hear from you.