Overcoming procrastination

How to jump-start yourself to get tasks done


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Let’s face it: Often in life when faced with a particular new or different task, we procrastinate. We might think we’re being lazy, too busy, or we just don’t want to do something. But we may be avoiding something that first requires us to feel more comfortable about what we’re doing. Consider the following methods to jump-start getting new tasks done.

One method is to just start doing something. Don’t overthink the task – just start some momentum by jotting notes or writing an outline. You can do this wherever you are at that particular moment, which will start priming the brain pump.

If you can stay focused on it for a few minutes, you might find that the momentum you created will carry you away. The trick for making this method successful is to make sure that you will not be distracted. For example, don’t do this with Facebook in front of you or in a place where people will generally interrupt you.

If you’re really stuck with getting your creative mind going and not knowing where to begin, consider finding something intellectually stimulating to read or listen to. This could be unrelated to the task at hand and just be enough to get the brain chemicals moving.

For example, recently I had to give a presentation that was going to introduce new ideas. Deciding to “strategically procrastinate,” I listened to “On Being,” an NPR program with Krista Tippett. During that stimulating conversation, I found my mind wandering to ideas that had nothing to do with my presentation subject. The momentum automatically began. About three-quarters of the way through the program, I opened up my laptop and started to write.

It wasn’t the concepts the scientist was talking about, but the way that she approached solving the problems that prompted me with an outline of how I might solve the problem of my presentation. 

Creating intentions are powerful things. If we visualize something with enough detail, it quite possibly could come true. Visualizing something is a form of setting an intention.

I had a teacher in grammar school help me with a paper. Her method was to make me sit back with my eyes closed and to visualize what the paper looked like. No pen to paper, just thinking about what each section might be and the paper’s overall structure. Then, all I needed to do was write things down and start filling in the blanks. 

We don’t always have to sit to use visualization. We can just think about things while doing something else. If sitting in front of a computer and starting to accomplish something is overwhelming, then take a drive or a walk. The brain thinks about things differently when we are doing something else. The beauty of visualizing is that you can do it while you’re raking leaves or riding a bike.

You may have noticed that all of these methods have an element of physical space to them. We are so accustomed to thinking of work tasks as being a rigid process of reading and writing. We forget the artist in us that can create new ideas. Artists look for inspiration in other places.

In our contemporary professional world, we are expected to be creative. So let’s adopt creative methods that include visualizing what we want to do before we start painting the picture. Actively visualizing will help us think through a problem and give us enough momentum to move towards completing it. 

Russ Ouellette is managing partner of Sojourn Partners, an executive leadership strategy and coaching firm in Bedford, and co-author of the book, “The Future of Everything.” 

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