Weekly Hack: Stop procrastinating right now!

stop procrastinating By Netrun78/Shutterstock

Is your 2020 goal to stop procrastinating? (Remember last year, when you put off draining the cottage plumbing and the pipes burst? Yeah, that was terrible.) Follow these tips and you’ll start the new decade productively. By the time opening-up weekend rolls around, you’ll be an efficient, job-tackling machine.

Break jobs into smaller concrete steps and anchor them in the present. Instead of thinking, I need to fix the dock, think, Today I’ll go buy the lumber. Some productivity experts call this the “two-minute rule” (after David Allen’s strategy from his book Getting Things Done). Breaking big goals or projects into short tasks that you can accomplish in two minutes is a mental trick to push yourself to get started, and to keep yourself from feeling overwhelmed. You don’t have to do everything. You just have to do something. 

Don’t worry about failing, and don’t try to be perfect. Psychologists believe that fear—of failure, or even of success—is often at the root of procrastination. Arming yourself with knowledge before you attempt a project can help. (And it’s happily usually pretty easy; you can find a YouTube or Cottage Life video on how to do practically anything.) If you reduce uncertainty and anxiety, you can (hopefully) squash the fears that you didn’t even know were holding you back.

Time travel to the future. Not literally (though that would be cool). Just imagine the specific possible outcomes of not completing the task that you’re putting off. For example: if you don’t repair the railing, Grandma could fall on the steps as she goes down to the lake. Research shows that people procrastinate because they tend to rank vague, future consequences as less important than present discomfort–say, the tedium of doing a boring job. Imagining how awesome you’ll feel when a job is finished works too.

Don’t beat yourself up when you do procrastinate. Forgive and move on. Self-criticism just makes you feel bad…and that usually leads to more procrastination.

Need more resolutions? Read about 10 New Year’s resolutions every cottager should stick to.

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