How to do the things you keep avoiding

Procrastination is a problem we all have at some point. We keep avoiding and postponing tasks that we really need to get done, and it can bring not just professional or personal consequences, but a lot of distress, worry, guilt, and shame. Here are a few tips for how to just get started on those tasks that you keep putting off.

1. Just get started with the smallest step

Sometimes, all you need to do is to sit down, buckle up, and start working. It is often the best possible solution. To make the process easier for yourself, start with a small step. It can be starting the program, opening the document, finding the number you need to call, or just sitting with the work for five minutes.

Identify what would be the smallest possible step to get started and do it. Once you do, it will be a lot easier to keep going.

2. Connect with the meaning of the task

It can help to understand how critical the task is. Sometimes, we put things off for so long, we kind of forget why they were so important in the first place. Take a moment to sit down and think about why you need to do this.

What are the positive effects and benefits it will bring you? Is it something you want or need to do? What will happen if you don’t get it done? Make the task more meaningful.

3. Make it interesting

If the task appears incredibly boring and that is why you are avoiding it, try and find ways to make it a bit more appealing. You can turn it into a game – try to do it quickly or better than the last time or find a way in which you can make it more appealing.

If all else fails, promise yourself a reward at the end and then deliver said reward without fail. Don’t go for the reward before you start the task, however.

4. Get more people involved

As social beings, we can get started on a task easier if there are other people involved. Tell your friends or partner to have accountability. If you can, bring them into the task – make it into a game with social elements of collaboration or competition. Find someone who is able and willing to help and it will be much easier to get started. Even just telling other people who you know will ask later is a good way of motivating yourself to get started.

5. Set a clear deadline

Sometimes, the problem is that there is no deadline for the task or the deadline is too far away. You can easily remedy this problem by setting your own deadline. Imagine that you must have the work done by the end of the week or, even better, tomorrow.

Make sure that you can respect this deadline and take it seriously. Make sure the deadline you set is realistic for the work you need to do and takes into account your circumstances.

6. Break the work down

If you are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the work you need to do, you need to stop focusing on it as a whole. Sit down and break the work down into smaller chunks that you can manage one at a time.

Divide it into clear tasks that you can accomplish one by one and that will give you a sense of accomplishment, making it easier to move from one task to the next. Focus only on what is in front of you and take it to step by step.

7. Take a short rest

Perhaps you can’t get started because you are tired and the work that you haven’t done is weighing you down. In that case, the best thing you can do is truly disconnect from the work for a while and take a break. Take a walk or sleep a little. Put some genuine rest between you and the task to be completed and allow yourself not to think about it in this interim space.

Relax and let your mind and body rest for a bit before you are ready to tackle it again. Even if you might feel guilty about “wasting time”, it is likely to save you time in the end. When we are tired, we tend to procrastinate a lot more and also to take longer doing the work. Let yourself rest before you start.