Sometimes, you just can’t figure out how to stop procrastinating. When this happens, you can at least learn ways to procrastinate effectively.
Chances are, every once in awhile you find it nearly impossible to start a task. You know that it must be done and you want it done, yet you can’t find the motivation to start.
Beginning the task, project, or whatever it is seems like the most difficult thing in the world.
So what do we end up doing? Usually anything distracting that takes our mind away from the job to be done, even if only momentarily.
The usual suspects are sensual pleasures such as unhealthy snacking, binge watching, and social media surfing. There are others, but you get the point.
The thought of getting started makes us anxious, so we do things to provide temporary relief.
Many times those things end up being much longer than temporary and once our mind gets back to the thought of having to do the task, we experience even more trepidation.
It doesn’t have to be like this though. We can all develop better habits around specific activities we will do when we feel like procrastinating.
We don’t have to do things that just waste time and are detrimental to us following through with what we set out to do.
You don’t have to start the task right away, but there are definitely better ways to procrastinate than the ones we typically default to. If you must put things off, you can at least procrastinate effectively.
The next time you feel stressed out about beginning a new project, task, or assignment, try doing one of these 7 things instead of heading to the refrigerator, turning on netflix, or getting lost in social media land.
If you are procrastinating anyway…do the dishes, clean up your bedroom, or pick up the living room. Chances are that there’s at least one area of your home that could be tidied up a bit.
Cleaning can lower stress levels and improve concentration, both of which will be beneficial in getting started with the other task that you are currently avoiding.
According to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, twenty minutes of cleaning activity reduces anxiety and stress by as much as 20 percent.
A clean place is also less distracting place. If you’re having trouble focusing to begin with, a cluttered and messy living space is only going to add to that.
On top of all that you get the feeling of accomplishment for completing something, likely leaving you more inspired to begin and accomplish more.
Do Some Yard Work
Feeling unmotivated? Do some yard work if it’s nice outside.
Not only does it keep you active, but because you’re out in nature, your stress hormones naturally decrease and anxiety tends to subside.
Also, you’re exposed to natural sources of Vitamin D through the sunlight, which is the best antidepressant medicine you can get from nature.
When you perform yard work, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins are a type of “feel-good” chemical in the brain that promote a positive outlook on life.
Performing yard work can actually boost your energy. When you become more active, internal mechanisms such as metabolism ramp up. As a result, more of the food you eat gets used as energy versus being stored as fat. This makes you feel more energetic.
Michigan State University and the Michigan-based non-profit Gardening Matters have both produced documents that say that gardening is associated with mental clarity and feelings of reward.
Take A Walk Outside
Walking outside has been proven to be a mood boosting activity. Research has found that just 20 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, such as walking, to be enough to provide your body with increased energy and a lifted mood for as much as 12 hours.
Walking can also get your creative juices flowing. Often when you don’t feel like starting something, it’s because you need to create something new or come up with a new approach to a complex problem.
Research shows it’s a good idea to get moving: According to a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, Learning, Memory, and Cognition, going for a walk can spark creativity.
Not knowing where to begin on a complex task can be stressful to say the least. One of the most widely known benefits of meditating is that it reduces stress. Spending even a few minutes meditating can restore your inner peace.
Meditation brings the brainwave patterns into an relaxed alpha state, that relaxes the body as well as the mind. Without constant stimuli entering the sensory pathways, the mind is able to relax and enter a state of deep rest.
It is also a practice of self-care, that allows for a connection with your inner self. In doing so, your self-esteem increases as well as the ability to make decisions that align with your authentic feelings and desires.
Best of all, it’s simple, inexpensive, and doesn’t require any special equipment. Once you make meditating a habit, it becomes easy to do anywhere. Work, home, taking a walk, anywhere.
So take charge of your own nervous system and emotions by meditating. It is one of the more effective ways to procrastinate.
Listen To A Podcast Or Audiobook
Boost your imagination and get the creative juices flowing by listening to a podcast or audiobook. A true crime series or another type of fictional podcast or audiobook that tells a story is particularly good for this.
Since you can’t see the characters or what’s going on, you’re forced to use your imagination to build the images in your head. I listened to George Orwell’s 1984 a few months back and still remember the scenes that I created in my head.
Of course, you could just read an article instead of listening to a podcast or read an actual book versus listening to an audiobook, but you can’t really multitask when doing that.
If you’re listening to a podcast or audiobook, you could also be doing another activity on this list such as walking or yard work and double up the benefits!
Draw / Doodle
It might seem counterintuitive, but drawing or doodling can actually have a positive effect on attention & memory, reduce stress, and improve focus.
In 2009, psychologist Jackie Andrade asked a group of people to listen to a voice mail message that was about 2 1/2 minutes long. Half of the group shaded in a shape (doodled) while they did this, and the other half did not.
None of the participants were aware that their memories would be tested after the call. When the two groups were asked to recall details from the call, those that were shading in the shape recalled 29% more information than the group that did not doodle.
When we are intently focused on something, such as a difficult project or complex problem that needs to be solved, we are using up a ton of energy and focus.
In a way, doodling or drawing allows us activate our brain’s “unfocus” circuits, give our “focus” circuits a break, and allow us to more creatively solve problems.
Phone A Friend Or Family Member
Disconnection with others can cause negative things such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and even speed up the aging process.
It only makes sense that connection provides the opposite effects, and one of the best (if not the best) ways to connect is to talk to someone, especially a close friend or family member.
If you’re feeling stressed and anxious about something you need to do, talking to a friend or family member could be just what you need. And like listening to a podcast or audiobook, you can do this while doing other activities at the same time (walking, yard work, doodling, etc)
Talking leads to a catharsis, or a feeling of relief. The feelings within us become less charged. Nothing has changed regarding the fact that the project or task must be completed, but talking can drain off some of the edge so it doesn’t seem so insurmountable.
In addition to making us feel better, talking can also lead to new solutions. Many times when we talk with a friend or family member, we are stuck. We don’t know what to do.
As we talk, we hear ourselves express things that have not been expressed before. Hearing ourselves sometimes causes a solution to suddenly pop into our mind.
Looking at every item on this list, there is a common theme of improving your overall wellbeing. Whether it be reducing stress or anxiety, improving focus & concentration, or in general providing some sense of relief and/or release.
The other activities I mentioned that many of us default to when we need to begin a project or task (unhealthy snacking, binge watching shows, indulging in social media, etc) can also provide a temporary sense of relief.
The problem is that they don’t motivate us towards doing what we need to do. The seven activities that have been listed likely will.
The wrong activities end up making us less likely to do what we need to do. Unhealthy snacking will almost certainly lead to more craving of snacks and laziness.
Binge watching tv just leads to more binging and procrastination. It also doesn’t help when you only have five seconds to turn it off before the next episode begins!
And we all know how much of a time waster overindulgence on social media can be.
In essence, these activities provide no real value whatsoever. They provide a quick sense of relief but usually leave you feeling MORE stressed out and anxious once you stop.
I’m not saying it’s a crime to binge watch tv or have a pizza once in a while. However, doing these things to fill up time while avoiding important activities can lead you down a lousy, unfulfilling road.