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Ideas for avoiding procrastination and getting into the habit of taking action

avoiding procrastination Taking action and avoiding procrastination is something that I've always wanted to write about as I've always felt that procrastination is one of most common challenge that many people face. Somehow through the years I've never really gotten down to writing about it.

It just so happened that recently, a reader emailed me about the topic, exchanging ideas and asking for some opinion on avoiding procrastination as he was currently facing difficulties around it. As I wrote the reply to him, it occurred to me that what I was sharing with him would apply to just about anyone as well. I thought I should share those emails on the site as it could prove to be very beneficial to other readers as well.

Here is the email.

Hi there, thanks for this great article! It really seems like a workable way to change my habit. (Ethan : This is in reference to my article on Changing A Habit)

In a nutshell, my problem is not being able to identify the needs which I am fulfilling through my procrastination habit and therefore not being able to think of a suitable replacement habit.

I cannot determine what needs are being met by my putting off important work and study tasks to the last minute, replacing them with time-wasters like watching movies (many, back to back!) etc before. As I see it, I might have the need to do something 'fun' first as reward/justification for having to do something which seems tedious (but often isn't once I actually start it).

In this case, what would I use as a replacement habit? I have done all of the other steps in the article except for this one.

Should I simply work on getting to work first whenever the option to work/play comes up and then work with leverages (as per the last part of the article)?

JJ, Thailand

This was my reply to him.

Hi JJ,

First of all let me commend you for actually following and taking the steps in the article. Not everyone would actually do it as it requires them to actually do something. It's good to hear that you put in the effort and followed each step.

Now on to your question about avoiding procrastination and developing effective habits. I can relate to what you are saying, and I think you've hit it on the nail in the head when you mentioned that the procrastination habit that you have is probably for some sort of reward or justification that you give yourself before you actually get into the thick of things. It is almost as if because you are going to be spending the next hour or so doing some work, you need to make sure that you relax a little first so that you won't over stress yourself.

So how do you deal with that?

It is definitely better to go the route of getting the work done first and then rewarding yourself later. Not only does it prevent you from procrastinating, but also motivates you to fully focus and quickly finish the task so that you can enjoy the rewards as soon as possible.

Here are some tips on avoiding procrastination in your situation.

Use rewards - To make this new habit stick, for every time that you got to the task right away without procrastinating, give yourself a big reward after you have completed it. This helps create a positive conditioning around this new habit.

Come up with supporting references - To help you take action and adopt this mindset even more, come up with reasons and references that supports finishing the task first. Anytime you are thinking about going to relax first, remind yourself of things such as;

  1. How you should really fully utilize your focus and energy while you are still physically and mentally fresh. Tell yourself that when you are at your optimal state, it is such a waste to spend all your energy watching TV or doing other stuff. If you work while you are still energetic and fresh, chances are you would be able to finish your work much quicker than after you're already tired out from doing other stuff.
  2. How there's no point of relaxing first right now because in the back of your mind you know that you've got some tasks to do ahead. Since you're probably not going to be able to fully relax anyway, why not just finish the work and get it over with, and then really enjoy yourself and have a blast!

Come up with supporting references like those above. These are just 2 such examples and I'm sure you could come up with more stuff to motivate yourself to take action now. The more reasons you can come up with to support this mindset, the more chances you have of avoiding procrastination.

Now if you would still prefer to relax first, as a sort of preparation before you start your work, a viable alternative would be to actually choose activities that are not as time and energy consuming. Instead of watching movies, surfing the net, playing games etc - do some better activities such as light meditation, closing your eyes and clearing your mind, listening to relaxing music etc.

All these activities would also achieve your objective of relaxing first before getting to work. That is a possible alternative. But remember to keep it short though, or else once again you'll be spending all your time relaxing.

Hope that this information is useful for you to start avoiding procrastination and getting things done.

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