If you've read a few of the articles floating around this blog, you would have heard me speak about two things I tend to struggle with:
- Impulsive instincts / Instant gratification
- Extreme demotivation with important tasks
Now, someone may look at these two traits and think that they're on completely different ends of the spectrum, and that my impulsiveness should actually keep me constantly productive.
But that's not the case.
In fact, they both contribute to my pretty annoying procrastination and 'do it later' mindset.
It was only when I began researching why people procrastinate and what causes a lack of motivation in daily tasks that I slowly understood how to fight back.
5 Major Things that Helped me Fight Procrastination.
🪜 Creating Super Small Steps for all my Tasks
📝 Relying on Written Lists
🤲🏼 Salah Time and Schedules Time Blocks
🤝 Accountability Friends
💪🏽 Using Procrastination Rewards
🙉 The Instant Gratification Monkey Theory
Whether you're a TedTalk lover or not, there's a high chance you'll be familiar with the speech that caught the attention of 48+million viewers in 2016.
There's two parts of our minds that he emphasised which were:
- The Instant Gratification Monkey
- The Rational Decision Maker
👉🏼 How it works:
Our rational decision maker allows us to create a highly productive schedule for the day i.e. completing that uni essay/ work project/ pressing house chore/ gym workout.
But the instant gratification part of our brain convinces us to instead do something that is more pleasing, fun and requires less physical effort.
When we give in to our instant gratification thoughts we - yep, you guessed it - completely put off the very rational and productive plans we had initially set out for ourselves.
Our time becomes so consumed by unimportant actions, like watching YouTube videos on repeat and scrolling through social media, that we end up in this pit of frustration from getting nothing valuable done.
The Instant Gratification monkey loves to live in the present. There's not much logical thinking behind it, nor is there any stress about the future.
These two conflicting parts of our brain reel us into major procrastination.
🔎The Theory in Practice
I'll use a personal battle of my own to exemplify the theory.
Every other day, my goal is to spend the early morning (between 8am - 9am) working on a blog post I want to publish that day.
Writing, for me, isn't a boring task.
It's literally what I do for a living.
However, it does require mental effort and strategic thinking - something that my instant gratification monkey tries to steer me off from.
That productive plan then turns into 👇
By the time I know it, I'm one coffee down and about 2 hours behind on my entire schedule.
This is how a typical morning can look for me, but it can get so frustrating when my high-yielding ideas fail to become a reality.
Let's look at some actionable ways to kick our procrastination out the way:
🪜Creating Small Steps for Every Task
I realised that having an overwhelming to-do list with heavily-demanding tasks just wasn't cutting it.
I then started using this ADHD-friendly digital planner on my iPad which breaks own my list perfectly. Here's a quick view:
By filling out a very basic outline of my day, it helps me process all the big important tasks. I also get to write down the things I'm 'most looking forward to in my day' to help keep me motivated.
Though this might not work for everyone – it's such a game-changer for me in terms of feeling more achieved!
If you're not about the digital-life (not everyone is!), here's the main things to write in your notebook to help you plan more effectively:
- 📝 Plan Dump – a completely creative, non-judgemental space for you to write down everything you need/want/would like to do today
- 3️⃣ The Big 3– Here's where you list the three most important tasks from that dump
- 🔎 Break it Down – Can you break those 3 points down into actionable steps (e.g. writing an article —> doing the research)
- 🎉Things to look forward to – Give yourself that instant gratification, fun-loving treat after everything's ticked off!
🤲🏼 Scheduling my Work Around Salah (Prayer)
As Muslims, we know Salah has infinite benefits.
In terms of planning out your day and achieving maximum productivity, our prayer times help us create scheduled time blocks to get work done.
I'm going to sit through this work meeting at 10am and then I'll have enough time, after the meeting, to write a blog post before Dhuhr.
I'm going to schedule that workout so that I can be home in time for Maghrib.
One thing procrastination hates is deadlines.
This is why scheduled time slots (according to our prayer times) are a great way to fight back from demotivation – not to mention the huge feel-good moment we experience when we pray on time and get tasks done.
If I know there's an hour left before I take a break for prayer, I'll be more conscious of not wasting that time!
I get it – No-one likes to be micro-managed.
But asking someone to check up on you every so often isn't always a bad thing.
Procrastination occurs for even the most highly-driven, accomplished people. Which is why these people also have individuals who keep them aligned with their goals.
I don't have 'accountability friends' as such but I do make a conscious effort to tell those around me what I'm doing for the day because, chances are, they'll usually ask if you "managed to get that thing done today.."
So it gives that added (healthy) pressure to help you keep on top of tasks.
💓 Using a Reward System
Look – we've established we have an instant gratification monkey hovering in our brains, so it's important we give in oncceee in a whileee. 🤷🏽♀️
Using a reward to keep you motivated and keep you out of procrastination is a pretty good strategy.
If I have some heavy-duty tasks on the to-do list, I won't let myself do the one thing I want to do until these things are ticked off.
It could even be something like watching a YouTube video 📺 or going for a nap 💤 until my big 3 are done!
Don't forget to write your rewards down as well. Having them in plain sight will remind you of what's to come if you get those tasks ✅.
✨ Final Thoughts
Procrastination is something each and every one of us deal with in some form.
It's important to not be so harsh with ourselves or allow it to bring us into the pit of self-doubt.
Some of the most creative people in the world have these bouts of demotivation, making them give into a more enjoyable task than the one they actually need to do.
As well as getting ourselves into a good sleeping routine, making use of the steps we've mentioned is a good place to kicking procrastination out our way!
I'd love to hear your top tips for dealing with demotivation, so drop them in the comments 👇