If you need help with procrastination, then you’ve probably already noticed that trying to do it totally on your own doesn’t work.
There are many good pieces of advice that can help you in defeating procrastination – but all of them will be futile if you don’t address an underlying issue first: the mental strategies that sabotage your efforts to get things done. That is where hypnosis comes in handy. Because it allows you to alter these mental strategies in a productive way, so that rather than hindering you from getting started, they motivate you. But let’s look at this later on, and check out some general tips to help you stopping procrastination.
Writing down what needs to get done is one of the most important things. That does not mean you have to become obsessively organized – even rather “chaotic” people will benefit from writing down tasks they want to accomplish. Take for example the self-made billionaire Richard Branson. He surely is not someone that is obsessively organized or anal about things – but he repeatedly stated that his notebooks where the most important “business tools” that helped him to achieve what he has achieved in his life so far.
Just get the things that you need to do out of your head and write them down, so that you can see them. You can write it down on paper, on post-it notes, in a notebook, on a whiteboard or your computer, but stick to one system, rather than being all over the place.
First things first. Pay the most attention to what is the most important. It’s easy to get lost in all kinds of insignificant stuff. Ask yourself what matters to get done at the end of this month. What would make a difference? And than think of the steps you need to take. These should be your highest priorities.
Let Distractions Float Past
Leo Babauta, author of ___ has shared what he calls the single best procrastination tip ever in a recent article over at ZenHabits. It’s pretty much productivity meets Vipassana meditation, but better read the article yourself.
And you might also want to check out this funny + brilliant comic about procrstinators.
Get Over It
Sometimes we are too afraid to start acting. Maybe we are afraid of looking like a fool. Maybe we are afraid of failing. Maybe we are afraid of success. (You’d be surprised how often the latter is the case – because success forces us to face new challenges, set new goals, grow to new standards, and that can be a frightening prospect).
Don’t get hung up in whatever it is that is holding you back. You can walk around it. You jump over it, or climb underneath it. You can walk right through it. You can break it down. But don’t let it hold you back.
Sometimes we tend to totally overthink things and get struck by what’s called “analysis paralysis”. We try to come up with the best way to do something, because we want to get it right from the start. Optimizing a workflow is a good idea in general, but if you have a procrastination problem, you need to get over it and just start acting – even if it means that you’ll make mistakes or sometimes work ineffectively. You will figure things out as you go along the way, but it’s important that you make those first steps aready.
“In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing to do, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
Science has shown that the mind can indeed be a powerful tool to use when it comes to overcoming procrastination. In a December 2017 article titled Stop procrastinating with a research-backed mental visualization exercise the author Lila MacLellan explains that a strong sense of future-self continuity prevents procrastination.
What is future-self continuity?
It’s the idea that your future-self is still you. Now you might say “Of course my future-self will still be me!”, but our minds tend to trick us into believing that that’s not the case! Which is exactly one of the main reasons why we procrastinate. Because we offload a task that needs to be done onto our future-self. Whenever you say “I’ll do this later”, you essentially say “I’m not doing this, I will let my future-self do this”.
An experiment from 2011 showed that seeing digitally aged pictures of yourself can help you think more, and identify more with your future-self.
Eve-Marie Blouin-Hudon, a psychologist and researcher at Ottawa’s Carleton University, was inspired by this experiment and wanted to find out if using digitally altered pictures were even necessary, or whether the same effect could be achieved simply through the power of imagination.
She came up with a simple mental exercise: Imagine your future-self, and spend 10 minutes a day with it. She created a recording that guides people through that mental exercise, you can listen to it here.
The students who did this exercise reported that they were procrastinating less than they used to.
Here are the tips Blouin-Hudon shared:
Be specific about what you’re trying to fix. Picture yourself doing something that you tend to push off regularly, hoping that fate will magically remove it from your to-do list. Says Blouin-Hudon. “It could be eating healthy or going to bed early. It should be something for which, if you don’t complete it, you’ll really suffer.”
Adjust your timeframe appropriately. This study had an obvious timeline: the school semester. The rest of us are dealing with different deadlines and rhythms, or what scholars of chronemics, the study of time and communication, call “pacers.”
Use a third person perspective, as if watching yourself acting in a film. “It’s better to see your future self from a bird’s eye view,” says Blouin-Hudon. In her research, when her subjects were seeing their future from a first-person perspective, some seemed to become too emotionally connected, and more distressed, which made them more likely to procrastinate. “Be sympathetic to your future self,” says Blouin-Hudon, “not empathetic.”
Imagine as much detail, and evoke as many senses, as possible. You might ask: What’s your future self wearing? (Imagine your real clothes.) What is the light like in the room? Can you smell the freshly ground coffee from the office pantry ? Even more specifically: What’s the feedback on the sales report that you handed in early or late? In your email messages, is there a message in which you’ve asked your boss for an extension? How does that feel?
Settle on one or a few concrete steps you can take toward your goal. For some people, the visualization may be enough to kick-start action, but most people will need to commit to a few concrete steps to capitalize on their new sense of connectedness to their self of tomorrow. If the goal is to exercise, lay out your gym clothes. Or maybe you sketch a barebones outline of the memo that’s due at work.
Much of these tips are principles known to hypnotists since many decades already, and they have flown into this hypnosis recording that you can download and listen to anytime. Blouin-Hudon recommends that people practice the mental exercise daily for at least a month, but ideally as long as you feel it is helpful, and the same can be said about hypnosis recordings.
“Tomorrow is often the busiest day of the week.” Spanish Proverb