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As a master procrastinator, it’s hard to imagine that there are people out there who aren’t like me. Every time I get frustrated with myself about my bad habit, I make the excuse that “I just work better under pressure.” While this excuse works for tasks like schoolwork that have very clear due dates, it fails for goals that are longterm with no hard and fast deadline.
Say I set a goal to finish 3 books by the end of the summer but I don’t finish 1. The only consequence is a fleeting feeling of disappointment instead of a failing grade. Everyone makes goals like these. Eat healthier, exercise more, spend more time with friends, cut out screen time, etc. None of these goals have a due date that creates pressure to get them done. As a master procrastinator, these are the goals that will likely never get crossed off my list.
I found all of these points in a very interesting TED Talk by Tim Urban that I watched for my Marketing class. I have never had a TED Talk resonate with me as much as this video did. While I procrastinate practically everything in my life, what needs to get done gets done one way or another. But only as long as it has a due date. So how can a procrastinator like you or me actually achieve their goals that don’t have due dates? Are we helpless to the tasks of self-improvement?
Fortunately the answer is no. Today, I still consider myself a procrastinator. However, given the immense amounts of time on my hands in quarantine, I decided I need to start working towards what I actually want from life. Some of my goals included eating less meat, exercising regularly, drinking more water, and starting this blog. As you can tell, I’ve been successful in accomplishing at least one of those. I want to share some tips that I’ve used to help get started since that’s always the hardest part. You don’t need to do all of these for each goal that you have or in this order necessarily, but doing at least one of them will help you get on your way.
Start Working Towards Your Goals Today
As I said before, the hardest part is starting. That’s why you need to actually do something towards your goal TODAY. If you want to finish a book, set the timer and read for 10 minutes. If you want to start exercising more, literally get up right now and go for a walk or do a short yoga flow. Sure, you can think about a plan or a path to achieve a goal, but it will never happen unless you act.
Write Your Goals Down
I am a big fan of the Law of Attraction. Roll your eyes all you want, but putting your dreams out into the universe won’t hurt you. If anything, it can only help. Write down the exact moment that you imagine you will accomplish your goal. Where are you? How do you feel? Even if you don’t believe in the Law of Attraction, writing down the specific scenario where you succeed will come in handy as a reminder of what you are working towards if start to feel defeated along the way. Once you’ve written down that scenario, make a game plan. What are the steps you need to take to get there? Write them down and put them somewhere visible to keep you on track.
This step works in tandem with writing everything down. Take the scenario of success that you wrote and play it over and over in your head from the first person. It doesn’t need to be long, just a few seconds. Many people use visualization techniques for accomplishing goals, especially athletes. In high school, we would take a few minutes before each game and visualize a win. It helps put you in the right headspace and serves as motivation.
Hold Yourself Accountable
As I said before, although I am a professional procrastinator, as long as I have a due date, it will get done. So, if you’re like me, give yourself due dates! Sure, I don’t need to drink a whole Hydroflask by noon, but if I tell myself I do, then I do. I don’t need to write a few blog posts a week, but I put it in my calendar and it happens. Treating goals with no deadline as goals that are time-sensitive will give the illusion of the pressure needed for a procrastinator to be productive.
Make A Vision Board
These last two tips are by far the most fun. During freshman orientation, a speaker told us that people who have a daily visual/physical reminder of their goals are 40% more likely to actually achieve them. So, hop on Pinterest and search up what you want from life and make a collage. Hang it up in your room, glue it down to a page in your journal, whatever you want! As long as you see it every day, you’re doing it right.
Long-term goals are difficult to stick with because they never include instant gratification. Sometimes, the process is so slow that it might not seem worth the time and effort. Rewarding yourself along the way for small wins is essential in staying motivated and excited about the process. It can be something as small as a coffee or as nice as new jewelry. Just make sure you take time to congratulate all the hard work you put into making your dreams reality.
It goes without saying that you are by no means obligated to use this time in the Q to be productive. The world really feels like it’s falling apart, and it’s important to acknowledge and manage the emotions that come with that. I saw a great quote on an Instagram story yesterday that said something along the lines of “stop assessing your level of productivity in comparison to your life six months ago.” Sure, life right now might look a little lazier than life six months ago, but we are living in a much different time. Take it slow, only proceed when you feel you should.