Beat procrastination by committing to the bare minimum
You know the drill. You have a task you’d like to accomplish but for some reason you just can’t get yourself to begin.
You spend hours, days or weeks worrying about how tedious or boring or difficult it’s going to be.
You get yourself stuck in an endless loop of “after this next article” or “after this next episode” or “after x amount of time.”
Before you know it, the deadline is looming and you have to put in extra hours just to get this one thing done or worse, you give up and lose the opportunity altogether.
Procrastination is the name of the game and although none of us willingly signs up, we’ve all been sucked into this time-wasting trap that ironically makes tasks much more painful than if we just went ahead and got to work, as opposed to devoting umpteen hours fighting this losing battle of avoidance.
The reason we let ourselves procrastinate is fear. Fear that we’ll fail or suffer in one way or another and although this is a natural instinct designed to protect us, we need to understand that the longer we wait, the worse it will get.
Think about it, if you put off writing that report until the last possible minute, how much more stress and anxiety are you going to have to deal with, in addition to the boredom that you’ve been trying to avoid?
The only real antidote to this task-related trepidation is to get started and get it over with and although we all know this, we make it harder on ourselves by thinking that we HAVE to do it all at once; but we don’t.
You’ve heard it said that Rome wasn’t built in a day and in the same spirit, all you need to do is commit to laying your first brick and see how you feel after that. In most cases, simply getting started empowers us to complete a considerable chunk of the task, as we will have discovered that it’s not actually as hard as we had anticipated.
If, on the other hand, one brick is really all you can manage at that point, then take a break and see if you can do two tomorrow.
The next time you find yourself procrastinating on an important task, ask yourself what you’re really afraid of, and then figure out the smallest measure of that fear that you believe you can handle at that point.
Keep in mind that the bare minimum can be qualitative and/or quantitative. You may not be ready to change your diet altogether, but you can commit to one healthy meal per week and build up from there. If you’re worried about a certain piece of writing, commit to creating a rough draft and then worry about the edits when that’s done.
Your bare minimum can also be as big or as small as you need it to be. The important thing here is to get started, not to finish. If five minutes of commitment is all you can manage, then give yourself that, and allow yourself a break if and when you feel you need it.
Like with sports and exercising, our endurance increases with continued exposure. The more often we commit to completing the smallest possible unit of execution, the larger that unit will get, and eventually we may even be able to wear down our procrastination muscle and build a new productivity one in its place!