It’s nice to be comfortable. We would rather do tasks we enjoy. Procrastination is often caused by the avoidance of unpleasant or painful tasks. We all would rather do something pleasant rather than unpleasant.
When we postpone an unpleasant task, we are attempting to make life more pleasurable and avoid the miserable or the painful. Unfortunately, the unpleasant task seldom disappears, thus once the consequences for not performing the activity become more painful than the unpleasant task, we take action.
So what can we do to break procrastination?
One of the best strategies is to schedule and handle the unpleasant task first. Just like when we were kids and we would eat our spinach first, get it out of the way, and enjoy the rest of our meal. I still do the same thing, today, when it comes to salad. I don’t enjoy it, but I know it’s good for me.
Here’s another strategy. Sometimes considering the costs of delay can help us get on track and take action. What problems are you creating by waiting? How much anxiety and frustration will you feel by waiting? What opportunities or options will be lost by delay?
Also, it helps if we can break up the painful task into small pieces. Slice and dice the task into five, ten, or fifteen minute chunks. We can endure anything painful for a few minutes.
Finally, setting deadlines, and sticking to them can help to get you started on an unpleasant task. Promise to reward yourself promptly after completing the deed.
Consider inviting a partner or coworker to work with you. The task may still be unpleasant, but it will be completed more quickly and it may be less painful with some company.
Find a way to appreciate the challenge of finishing unpleasant tasks. Give yourself a pep talk along the way. Reward yourself when you are done – you earned it.