How to Stop Procrastination Forever
This blog post on how to stop procrastinating comes at the end of an unproductive day for me. I mean, in reality, I think my unproductive days are equal to many peoples idea of a productive day, but in comparison to my own productive days, unproductive days suck, and leave me feeling super flat and frustrated.
I’ve done all I urgently needed to do today, but I think that’s half of the struggle. Being your own boss and running your own projects can often mean you have to create more work for yourself. So, when you have slightly quieter periods, its crucial that you motivate yourself to go out and find future work or at least plan for it. I had the good intentions to focus on so many things today, and whilst I had the time to make space for them, I found myself procrastinating with unimportant emails, faffing with new software for my website (which took time and resolved nothing), posting a little on Instagram and generally just hanging out on my laptop but with not much to show for it.
It’s days like these - or should I say Monday’s like these, mostly - that really drain me and zap my energy. I always know the minute I wake up that it’s going to be one of those slow-burning days, lacking inspiration or enthusiasm, and where lots happens and I do lots of little bits, but I don’t actually feel like I’ve gotten anything profound or productive done at all.
Today, a lot of positive things happened and lot of important things on my to-do list actually did get done. But, I think, because none of them were incredibly engaging, I didn’t feel as excited as I should have done. I received some exciting emails, I arrived on my new modelling agency’s website, I sent some emails I’d been avoiding for some time, I planned some new projects for Qnola, amongst other things, yet none of these things made me feel like I’d done enough by the end of the day.
One thing in my way was severe whiplash from my recent ski trip to Austria, making my neck excruciatingly tight, my head painfully heavy and my mind dizzy and distracted by a dull and constant headache and a lack of appetite and, subsequently, energy. I also had a little jet lag and was probably overtired, but we never make excuses for ourselves when we’re busy being hard on ourselves, do we? If it was anyone else, I would have told them to take a break or take the day off, but because it was myself, I forced myself to power through and well, yep, it didn’t get me much further than having a day off would have done; may as well be honest with you.
It has however, inspired this late night blog post which I hope in turn inspires you next time you hit a productivity block.
Causes of procrastination and why we experience productivity blocks
A number of things can affect our concentration, motivation and productivity, from one day to the next.
Your job and / or the task at hand. If you hate your job or if whatever you need to do makes you miserable, your motivation is going to be low. Passion is the secret to guaranteed productivity, motivation and drive. Don’t freak out if you hate your job, just don’t blame yourself for lack of drive if that is the case. It’s the jobs fault, not yours. You’ll see when you eventually find what truly lights you up (disclaimer: It’s a forever-project).
Your energy levels. Have you slept well? Have you slept long enough? Are you generally well rested? Have you eaten? Have you eaten too many sugar or caffeinated foods? Have you exercised? All of these things will affect your physical and mental output.
Distractions. These come in all shapes and sizes, from things like matters in your own private life, new stories and office conflicts, to constant texts or emails, external noise from colleagues or things like the radio, or internally muttering coming from your own thoughts.
Time constraints. Sometimes, deadlines can be more overwhelming than good, and can restrict you from doing your best. Other times, they can be too lenient or long, allowing more room for procrastination. Try to find a schedule structure that works for you.
Misc. There are plenty of other things that can induce productivity blocks. I touched on internal muttering of the mind, but more specifically, things like comparison, self-doubt, self-worth, confidence and fear can powerfully affect and dictate how productive your are, or you allow yourself to be, I should say. All of these things have a way of mentally holding you back, by making you feel either incapable, unworthy, undeserving, or all of the above. These kinds of things often arise to challenge you, and in moderation, they’re good traits to carry, but when they become too much and stop you from doing things, they become detrimental to your life and mental health, and prohibit you from living life authentically. Tiredness, lack of sleep, lack of nutrients, external or societal expectations are amongst some of the reasons these thoughts and feelings surface now and again. Meditation and mind-mapping can help silence these self-limiting beliefs and help you regain control.
How to approach procrastination and productivity blocks
What to do when you feel a wave of low-productivity approaching (or when you wake up feeling a lack of inspiration or motivation) and how to avoid it.
Understand that it’s just one of those things / one of those days; notice it, allow it, and whatever you do, don’t judge it or try to change it. It will just. make. things. worse.
Once you’ve noticed you’re having one of those days, start a fresh to-do list. Sometimes, on days like these, you have to break things down really basically. It may seem condescending but making things a simple as possible will really help you to concentrate. Make things easy, digestible, plain and simple. It’s important to be gentler, more patient and more understanding with yourself, as the more pressure you put on yourself, the more overwhelmed and anxious you’ll become. Go slow and try to do one thing at a time. And if this means cutting down your to-do list for the day, so be it.
Drink plenty of water. Down 1-2 glasses of water as soon as you feel this dip in productivity. Follow that with a herbal tea, and even better, bring in a fruit and vegetable based juice or smoothie, for extra and instant nutrients.
Prioritise natural, whole foods. You need your nutrients, and your brain needs as much fuel as it can get. I’d suggest raw or cooked vegetables, foods high in omega 3 fatty acids (like avocado, nuts and seeds), and if you don’t have much of an appetite, incorporate adaptogen powders, tonic herbs or other superfood powders, or take multivitamins and other supplements to support cognitive function.
Take time to breathe deeply. On days when either you just don’t feel productive, or when you feel overwhelmed and unfocussed, stopping to concentrate on your breath can be powerful. Close your eyes and take 3, 6 or 12 long deep breaths, taking full inhalations and forceful exhalations. This should help to reset a few things mentally, and will instil inner calm and peace, if only for a moment.
Try to have just one to-do list. I am guilty of having to-do lists on my laptop, in my digital calendar, in several places on my phone, and then still go about making a handwritten to-do list. It’s never a good idea but I also can’t seem to stop myself. Learn from my experiences, and try to just organise your to-do lists for the present day in one place. Try to keep it neat, and prioritise things in order of urgency.
Instagram. Honestly, I have now sincerely warned you. There is nothing for you there, and certainly nothing that will help you on a day like today. Perhaps the odd inspirational quote, but you’ll likely pass hundreds of other overwhelming / soul-destroying / envy-inducing snippets whilst your there, that with either make you feel down, jealous, frustrated, unworthy, incapable, negative, depressed and, oh, unproductive once more. Just, don’t do it.
Don’t be so hard on yourself, and don’t worry if you don’t feel like you’ve done ‘enough’. Sometimes, in a days work, you merely plant seeds. You send emails and might not hear back straight away'; you plan projects but have no completed work or outcome to show for it (yet). Try to think of some days as planting seeds, and cultivating. It is all part of the process and things can’t always happen instantly. Imagine the seeds becoming whatever you desire or whatever they are destined to become, and then wait patiently for them to evolve. But know that results don’t always come instantly. Trust the process and do what you can, with what you’ve got. Remember there is no rush, and whatever will be will be.
Get some fresh air. Take a walk in nature or just somewhere local you can go that’s outside. Even just a change of scenery. A trip to a coffee shop or another public place during your lunch break. Any of these things can contribute to lifting your mood and encouraging a new wave of motivation or inspiration.
Indulge in time for yourself, particularly at the end of a day that you feel has been a bit of a flop. Take a bath, read a book, watch something on television, hang out with friends. Do something thoroughly relaxing, and enjoy thinking about how much better the following day will be. Get some rest and know that you will wake feeling more refreshed than ever. And if you don’t, know that that’s ok. Sometimes these things come in waves. I’ve had weeks and even months of low productivity, low moods, low motivation and lack of inspiration and enthusiasm, and it isn’t easy. But trust that it is all part of the process, and that when the time is right, things will become easier and a little more effortless. It depends on a lot of things, but it will come.
How to stop procrastination now
As with anything, I believe there can be important groundwork to be done and foundations to be laid before productivity blocks arise, in order to actually avoid them, more or less completely. Take into account the topics from above, but in general, to avoid the approach of productivity blocks in the first place, try the following 10 steps to stop procrastinating.
Move. Exercise daily, even if it’s just walking or stretching
Talk to others. Also, ask for help if and when you need it. Asking for help regularly or delegating tasks to others around where you can you will help take relieve some of the pressure you’re under, and should help you to feel generally less over-worked and overwhelmed
Read positive quotes or inspirational memes. Or, write some of your own. Write a positive affirmation or thought as a way to pivot any negative thoughts you might be having. For example, if you think something like ‘I hate my job, I will never get a job in fashion like I want to’, write down an opposite thought like ‘I look forward to finding my dream job, and I already love working in fashion’. Thinking more positively and acting as if you are already in the situation you want to be in has profoundly powerful effects on the outcome of your situations
Practice non-attachment. Simply work as much as you can, and get stuff done, but don’t put pressure on the outcome or the reason behind doing something. For example, don’t write an article just so it will be published. Write the article because you want to, and in practicing non-attachment, the outcome and result of you doing so will come willingly, and when it is destined too. And in the meantime, you won’t be putting pressure on yourself or the situation for it to be anything other than what it is
Get outside in nature, often
Give yourself permission to have regular breaks. Even if its just 10 minutes per day. Schedule a time to just be. To welcome silence or stillness. This should keep your productivity nicely topped up
Get enough sleep